GORE: Declares ‘War’ on Cancer, Addresses Mental Health
During a campaign speech at Emory University Medical School yesterday, Vice President Al Gore unveiled a proposal to boost federal spending on cancer research to $9 billion over the next five years and to offer Americans "a flood" of new treatments, the New York Times reports. "If I am entrusted to the presidency, I will work with you to put the same energy and priority into fighting cancer that we would put into preventing a war," Gore trumpeted. Gore's initiative calls for an increase in the number of cancer patients participating in clinical trials and requires Medicare to pay for screening tests. He also wants the FDA to speed approval of new cancer drugs and urged the extension of Medicaid coverage to uninsured people diagnosed with certain cancers (Dao, 6/2). A Webcast and transcript of the speech are available online at http://www.gore2000.org.
Former FDA Commissioner Backs Plan
Following Gore's speech, Dr. David Kessler, former FDA commissioner, lauded the vice president's proposal during a conference call sponsored by the Gore 2000 campaign. "The goal of vastly reducing the number of deaths from [cancer] ... may be the most important endeavor that we, as a country, ... can tackle," Kessler said, praising Gore for setting forth a "comprehensive" approach to battling the disease. Speaking about the future role of the FDA, Kessler explained that in a "post-genomic world," the agency must act as a "pioneer," using genetic markers to detect cancer sooner in patients and offer new treatments more rapidly. He also said that policymakers should focus as much on providing patients with access to care as they do on funding research. According to government statistics, 1.3 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and 560,000 will die from the disease (Josh Kotzman, American Health Line, 6/1).
Children's Mental Health Parity
Gore also unveiled a mental health proposal earlier this week. Joined by his wife Tipper, Gore told an audience of mental health advocates and professionals Wednesday that he would require private insurance companies to provide children with equal levels of mental and physical ailments, the New York Times reports. He said, "People still have insurance plans that actively discriminate against mental health. They still don't recognize it as a treatable illness, just like diabetes or high blood pressure or heart disease" The Vice President's proposal was met with praise and some skepticism. Laurie Flynn, executive director for the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill, said that Gore "put his finger on a major problem" (Dao, 6/1). But Joseph Rogers, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, called the proposal "too little, too late" (Vendantam, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/1). To view the event, type http://stream.realimpact.net/?file=realimpac t/gore2000/05312000_chevy_chase.rm into your Web browser. You must have Real Player to watch the Webcast.
... Tipper Recalls Personal Experience
Mental illness has also been an important topic for Tipper Gore, who last year revealed that she had undergone treatment for clinical depression. Since then, she has "turned [a] private experience into public action," helping last year to organize the first-ever White House conference on mental health. She noted: "The more people learn about and understand mental and emotional disorders, the more they understand it has to be on par with physical illness. ... We as a society are going to pay the cost of untreated mental health care ... and it's going to be much higher than treating it" (Amanda Wolfe, American Health Line, 6/1).