Durbin promotes legislation to fund heart defect research

Chronicle Media

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D) has gotten his bill to promote federal research on congenital heart defects and raise awareness on the impact the health problems have throughout patients’ lives passed. (Photo by the Minority Report Blog)

The Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), has passed the Senate.

Durbin’s legislation, which was approved unanimously, will promote federal research on congenital heart defects and raise awareness of the impact the health problems have throughout patients’ lives. The Senate-passed Reauthorization Act increases the funding authorization level for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to $10 million per year, compared to the current funding level of $4 million, which will help states collect data on the prevalence of CHD and understand trends, health care needs and disparities among the 1 million children and 1.4 million adults living with CHD.

Last year, Durbin and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) introduced a similar version of the bipartisan bill, which was also co-sponsored by Sens. Young, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss).

“If a loved one ever has the misfortune of getting sick or being born with a serious medical condition, you hope there’s a treatment or care option for them,” Durbin said. “That’s why I’ve fought to increase biomedical research — resulting in a $9 billion funding increase for our National Institutes of Health over the past four years; and that’s why passing the bipartisan Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act is so important. It will improve research, data collection and awareness so we can establish a standard of care for the 2.5 million American survivors with this serious birth defect, and provide real hope for their futures.”

“Gaining a better understanding of congenital heart defects is critical to the nearly 1-in-100 babies born with CHD and the millions of survivors living with this disease,” Young said. “That’s why I helped lead the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act with Senator Durbin, to increase research funding and awareness for congenital heart defects. I’m proud this bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate and is now one step closer to becoming law and saving lives.”

Durbin first introduced the Congenital Heart Futures Act in 2009 with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Zack Space (D-Ohio). The bill was included in the Affordable Care Act, and supported research to build a set of best practices and understanding for how to screen and care for newborns with health defects.

The Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act is supported by the Pediatric Congenital Heart, Adult Congenital Heart, Children’s Hospital and American Heart associations, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Cardiology, Society for Thoracic Surgeons, Children’s Heart Foundation, and Mended Little Hearts.

Heart defects are the most common and deadliest form of birth defects, with 1-in-20 children not living to see their first birthday. Early detection of congenital heart defects can be lifesaving. Durbin said thanks to significant strides in screening rates and surgical procedures, an estimate 90 percent of youth with CHD now survive into adulthood. However, there is no cure. As adult survivors age, they require lifelong, specialized care, and some patients face ongoing and additional health challenges, including an increased risk of disability and premature death.