President-elect Biden has a unique opportunity to refocus our health care system on patients in ways we have never seen before.  The COVID-19 pandemic presents our greatest challenge and perhaps our greatest opportunity to solve long-standing and emergent health disparities and discrimination in our existing system.

A historic public-private partnership has produced amazing results in a short period of time: the US Government is on the verge of approving the first COVID-19 vaccines, with more to follow.  People around the globe are looking to us in the United States because this is where health care innovation still thrives, with government, industry, providers, and patient advocates working together to speed treatments and cures.

Even as we herald the vaccine approvals that will finally give us path out of this pandemic, we should take the urgency that we brought to bear to speed vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and use it to speed treatments and cures for all the other diseases that rob people of their quality of their life, and even life itself.

Regardless of whether it is a pandemic that is a threat to our entire population, a rare disease diagnosis that comes with a death sentence, or a chronic, debilitating condition, we should have no less urgency and no less commitment to developing treatments and making sure they are available to the patients who need and can benefit from them.

President-elect Biden will have the unique ability to move boldly forward toward cures and treatments for hundreds if not thousands of deadly, rare, and chronic diseases that today have no treatment or very few.  President-elect Biden will have the ability to put patients first like no other President before him, not insurance companies or third-party middlemen or even government workers who take it upon themselves to decide which patients merit which treatments, if any.

President-elect Biden and his health care leadership team must continue to speed innovation for this pandemic and the next, as well as all the diseases that rob us of our loved ones and rob our loved ones of the ability to live their fullest lives.  He has the opportunity to charge his health care team with moving at greater speed, with greater innovation, and with greater commitment to the needs of patients than any other previous administration.  President-elect Biden has an opportunity – and a necessity – to reject “value frameworks” that are imaginary and not rooted in the lives and experiences of patients, and which are used to slow and thwart innovation and deny patients access to life-saving, life-preserving, and life-enhancing treatments.  Let’s embrace an innovation framework that encourages small and large companies, foundations and patient advocacy groups, government policy makers and regulators, to work together to keep America at the forefront of solving the diseases that afflict all our loved ones.

The unprecedented public-private partnership that has helped produce safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines shows what a sense of urgency can do.  The President-elect and his entire Administration must have that same sense of urgency to speed treatments and cures for all patients that are suffering from rare, chronic, deadly diseases, and ensure that once these treatments are approved, patients have access to them.

Terry Wilcox, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Patients Rising Now