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'Medical Sandbox' legislation headed to the Senate floor

Wellness GM / Flickr, Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/130100316@N04/15728773073/

As the pandemic continues to claim lives, lawmakers in Richmond are talking about taking steps to prompt medical innovation.

Republican Delegate Glenn Davis has been spending much of this year's General Assembly session in a sandbox; a medical sandbox. That's the name for a program he's trying to set up at the Department of Health to expedite the approval process for things like prescription drugs, medical devices and medical technology.

"So this is not 'I declare I'm a sandbox, government leave me alone.' This is, ‘I'd like to look at innovation for this particular device or this particular use of a device and apply for the regulations,’" Davis says. "The Board of Health has to say yes, that we can waive these regulations for a period of time."

The approval process for new prescription drugs can take as long as a decade, and medical devices can take as long as five years. Ben Knotts at Americans for Prosperity says the sandbox approach will allow for innovation.

"You actually had to have three heart attacks before you could get remote-patient monitoring coverage on Medicaid," Knotts explains. "And why couldn't they do that? It was because they didn't have a place in government that could inform them of the data and inform them of the outcomes."

The bill has already passed the House and will be headed to the Senate floor in the next few days.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.