Wicker, Klobuchar, Bilirakis, Butterfield Introduce Legislation to Boost Development of Cures for Rare Diseases

March 12, 2021

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced the Speeding Therapy Access Today (STAT) Act of 2021, which would improve the development of and access to therapies for the rare disease community. Representatives Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Millions of Americans are living with one or more rare disease, the majority of which do not have FDA approved treatments,” Wicker said. “Creating a Rare Disease Center of Excellence would accelerate the development of therapies for rare diseases and disorders at the FDA while putting patient input first. This would be an important step forward as we work to find cures for all diseases.”

30 million Americans are impacted by one of 7,000 known rare diseases, but nearly 93 percent of these known rare diseases have no FDA-approved treatment,” Klobuchar said. “It is critical that we pass this legislation to increase the number of safe, effective, and affordable treatments available for people suffering from diseases. As the co-chair of the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus, I’ll keep working to prioritize the needs of rare disease patients and their loved ones.”

“For me, this work is very personal because I have close family members and friends who suffer with rare diseases.  The lack of available treatments and therapies for rare disease patients is a common problem,” Bilirakis said. “The targeted FDA reforms contained in this legislation will have a meaningful impact on the acceleration of treatment development and will provide hope to the millions of patients and families who are coping with a rare disease.”

“There are over 7,000 known rare diseases and no more than 5% have FDA-approved therapy. Millions of Americans are suffering avoidable delays and barriers to new therapies due to overly complex regulatory processes that can take over a decade to develop. Patients in the rare disease community are in desperate need of options and cannot wait,” Butterfield said. “I’m proud to join my co-chairs of the Congressional Rare Disease Caucus in introducing the Speeding Therapy Access Today (or STAT) Act to accelerate development and access to potentially life-saving rare disease therapies.”

The STAT Act would enact targeted, impactful, and attainable policy reforms at the FDA to accelerate development of therapies across the spectrum of rare diseases and disorders and facilitate patient access to such therapies. Specifically, the STAT Act would:

  • Improve rare disease coordination, stakeholder engagement, and policy development within FDA by expanding existing authority to create a Rare Disease Center of Excellence,
  • Inform rare disease policies and actions by creating a Rare Disease and Condition Drug Advisory Committee,
  • Fund regulatory science and related activities to support development of therapies to treat very small rare disease populations, and
  • Strengthen rare disease patient access to FDA-approved therapies in both public and commercial plans through enhanced FDA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services coordination, proactive engagement of payers, and specific actions intended to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary access to novel therapies.

The Center of Excellence model has already generated positive results in other areas. Three years ago, the FDA established the first FDA Center of Excellence, focused on oncology, which has been extremely successful in bringing new cancer therapies to patients.  The goal is to replicate these outcomes in the rare disease community. 

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation was developed with the input of the rare disease community.

“On behalf of the more than 30 million Americans living with a rare disease, the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases enthusiastically endorses the STAT Act and stands ready to help advance this impactful legislation,” said Julia Jenkins, EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases Executive Director. “As co-chairs of the Rare Disease Caucus, and now as co-leads of the STAT Act, Senators Klobuchar and Wicker and Representatives Bilirakis and Butterfield have been unwavering champions for the rare disease community. We are grateful for their leadership, and we look forward to working with them to ensure their innovative vision and approach to catalyzing treatments and cures for Americans with rare diseases becomes a reality.”   

Click here to read patient stories and learn how the STAT Act will help these families.