Following its March 21 meeting in Washington, DC, the ASH Committee on Government Affairs visited more than 40 congressional offices to explain to Members of Congress and their staff the impact of potential cuts in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on research to find cures and treatments for patients with serious hematologic diseases. In an exceptional show of support for NIH funding, grassroots efforts by ASH and the biomedical research community led to more than 150 Democrats and Republicans in the House signing a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging the Committee to provide at least $32 billion for NIH in fiscal year (FY) 2013. The effort was spearheaded by Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA), who have been outspoken supporters of NIH. A similar letter, sponsored in the Senate sponsored by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), gained the support of nearly half of the Senate.
Committee members also discussed the topic of drug shortages with congressional offices. Last year, ASH helped bring the drug shortage crisis to Congress's attention and called for congressional hearings to understand what was causing the problem; this year, the ASH Committee recommended possible legislative solutions (H.R. 2245, the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act, H.R. 3839, the Drug Shortage Prevention Act, and S. 296, the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act) that would take important steps toward addressing this problem. Twelve additional Members of Congress were added as cosponsors of these various bills following the Committee's Hill Day meetings.
These meetings with Congress are an important component of ASH's advocacy efforts, providing an opportunity for Members of Congress and their staff to gain insight on issues of concern to hematologists. However, the Society needs the help of all members to bring issues important to the future of hematology to the attention of the U.S. Congress and other governmental agencies. ASH strongly encourages members to let the Government Relations & Practice Department know when you are in Washington, DC, and available to meet with your congressional delegation. You can also have your voice heard in the halls of Congress and play an important role in the Society's advocacy efforts by visiting the ASH Advocacy Center and participating in the ASH Grassroots Network.