Sunday, August 03, 2008

Patient Advocate Reed's Relentless Effort Against SB1565

Patient advocate Don Reed sent along the following concerning legislation aimed at ensuring affordable access to taxpayer-financed stem cell therapies in California.

He focuses on another element of the bill, which changes voting requirements on research that is not directly related to human embryonic stem cell inquiries.

Reed, vice president of Americans for Cures, has been campaigning vigorously against the bill, SB1565 by Sens. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and George Runner, R-Antelope Valley. Many of Reed's efforts surface on the Internet at his blog, Among other things, Reed is drumming up a letter-writing campaign (better than emails, he says) against the bill.

We checked into his blog recently and saw his account of the hearing last month on SB1565 in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. He noted that CIRM Chairman Robert Klein testified against the measure. It was Klein's first public appearance as chairman of CIRM before a legislative committee. Klein refused to appear before a committee in 2005 and instead launched a national effort among patient advocate groups against those proceedings, triggering a certain amount of unhappiness among some state lawmakers.

The Americans for Cures lobbying group was created by Klein and operates out of the same Palo Alto, Ca., address as his real estate investment banking firm. SB1565 is now on the Assembly floor. If it passes as expected, it will go to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments and then to the governor.

Here is Reed's letter:

"SB 1565 UNCONSTITUTIONAL? Open Letter to the California Assembly and Senate

"Dear Senators and Assembly members:
"As the father of a paralyzed young man, (Roman Reed, who inspired the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, source of America's first state-funded embryonic stem cell research) I strongly oppose Senate Bill 1565 (Kuehl,Runner).
"Please be aware that the bill has changed since you first saw it. The bill now contains a poison pill amendment, offered by Senator George Runner, a known opponent of the California stem cell research program. The Runner amendment not only defies the will of the voters, but may violate the California Constitution.
"First, here is our stem cell program’s current law, which was enacted by the electorate, and written into the California State Constitution:
"'(C) … a high priority shall be placed on funding pluripotent stem cell and progenitor cell research that cannot, or is unlikely to, receive timely or sufficient federal funding…Other research categories…shall not be funded by the institute.'
--Article XXXV of the California Constitution: Section 5, Chapter 3. California Stem Cell Research and Cures Bond Act, Article 1. 125290.60.
"As you know, our stem cell program may only be amended  to '…enhance the ability of the institute to further the purposes of…the measure…'—Section 8, Amendments.  
"And Senator Runner’s amendment, recently added to SB 1565?
"'(D) “Notwithstanding paragraph (C), any other scientific and medical research and technologies and/or any stem cell research proposal not actually funded by the institute under subparagraph (C) may be funded by the institute...'
"This turns our program upside down! Proposition 71 was enacted by the voters to give priority to forms of stem cell research not likely to be funded by the federal government.  The Runner amendment removes that priority, and would instead allow precious research dollars to be spent on 'any other scientific and medical technologies'.  That could be almost anything; a bedpan is a piece of medical technology.
"How can such a complete reversal be said to “further the purposes” of our stem cell program? Such seeming violations of the Constitution are almost certain to invite legal actions; have we not had enough lawsuits, enough delays?
"The original intention of SB 1565, to guarantee access of stem cell therapies to the uninsured, has already been achieved, and without the need for this bill. Bill author Senator Sheila Kuehl, a highly respected legislator, has publicly stated that she and CIRM (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine) are 'on the same page' regarding how low-income residents could receive benefits from CIRM-developed products.
"But the Runner amendment could gut the California stem cell program.
"Those who know, oppose. SB 1565 is opposed by the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, which is a board of more than 80 medical, educational, and disease advocacy groups: as well as every other stem cell research support group which has taken a position on the issue.
"On behalf of every California family with a loved one suffering from chronic disease or disability, I urge your 'NO' vote on Senate Bill 1565, when it comes before you for concurrence.
"Thank you.
"Don C. Reed
Co-chair, Californians for Cures
Sponsor, Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act
Vice President, Public Policy, Americans for Cures"

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