Developing policy for complex and technologically-sophisticated industries like health care is difficult work for legislative bodies. To deal with the multifaceted issue of how to bring new treatments for disease to the market more quickly, the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently launched a novel initiative that brings issue advocates directly into the deliberations process.
Named 21st Century Cures, the initiative will focus on how to best reform the overlapping federal regulations and laws that govern the drug approval process to make it faster and more innovative. Like most congressional panels, the committee has invited a variety of representatives from federal agencies, the private sector, academia, and advocacy groups to participate in roundtable discussions of white papers. What makes this effort unique is that even those advocates not invited to sit at the conference table are encouraged to join in the discussion through social media. The committee created an entirely separate Twitter account (@ECcures) for the effort. It boasts nearly 250 followers from a variety of advocacy organizations along with media and industry representatives. It also uses a unique hashtag (#Path2Cures) to organize public comment Advocates can also email a direct account with suggestions for improving drug approval and patient care. The committee will post these emails publicly after July 22 on its website to prompt further discussion. The next Energy and Commerce Cures event is scheduled for June 24 at 10:00 AM. The Twitter account and hashtag will be monitored during the event.