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Honorable Corrine Brown, Ranking Member, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives

United States House of Representatives

Statement of the Honorable Corrine Brown

Ranking Member

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

“Lost Opportunities for Veterans: An Examination of VA’s Technology Transfer Program”

February 3, 2016

Opening Statement

  • Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
  • Since 1980, the federal government has worked to make taxpayer funded research more available to the private sector while making sure that taxpayers also gain from these research investments.
  • This allows all of us the share in important research breakthroughs.
  • University of Florida developed Gatorade and got a patent for it, so anybody who used it had to pay University of Florida royalties for its use.  This concept of VA keeping its intellectual property rights for its employee’s inventions can’t be hard.
  • But we need to strike the right balance here so academic institutions want to partner with VA to conduct research and get funding for research from royalties from inventions, and so research is available for businesses to develop products that help veterans and the public.
  • This important program that should be overseeing this balance may not have received the leadership focus that it needs and employee turnover has been high.
  • There are questions as to whether the process in place is sufficient to strike this balance, from the Veterans Health Administration to the Office of General Counsel.
  • For this reason, I believe we should have an outside organization look at this program.  I believe we should request the GAO to look into this program and provide us with the facts so that we can make sure the program strikes the proper balance.
  • Finally, I believe that if this program is not working as it should, VA, and taxpayers, may end up holding the bag.
  • Just last week the Chairman raised questions and concerns over the price paid by the VA for Hepatitis C drugs.  He also pointed out that the drug was invented by a team led by a VA doctor.
  • This doctor subsequently sold the company that developed the drug to Gilead (Jill–e-ad) Sciences.
  • According to the Chairman, Gilead is charging the VA “upward of $40,000” while in Egypt the drug costs $900.
  • Without the VA this drug would not exist.
  • In the case of Gilead, we do not know if the process worked and whether the VA properly asserted its rights in this matter.
  • That is why we requested that Gilead be invited to testify today.
  • I believe that we should hold a hearing on drug pricing and how, moving forward, we can make sure that veterans are getting the drugs they need and VA is paying a fair price.
  • In addition, according to a recent New York Times article, drug manufacturing issues have caused shortages and rationing.  We need to make sure that we get to the bottom of this to make sure that veterans are not unduly affected.  Let me repeat myself.  We need to get to the bottom of this to make sure veterans are not unduly affected.
  • Making sure that taxpayers are not ripped off, and that veterans get the medicines they need is vital.
  • I look forward to us working together to explore these issues in the weeks ahead. 
  • One team one fight!
  • Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I yield back the balance of my time.