Congress OKs research bill co-sponsored by DeGette
Congress passed sweeping legislation Wednesday that boosts funding for medical research, eases the development and approval of experimental treatments and reforms federal policy on mental health care.
The 94-5 Senate vote Wednesday followed a 392-26 House vote last week. The bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, now heads to the desk of President Barack Obama, who praised the bill Wednesday and said he would sign it.
The bill provides for $4.8 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health; of that, $1.8 billion is reserved for the “cancer moonshot” launched by Vice President Joe Biden to accelerate research in that field. Another $1.6 billion is earmarked for brain diseases including Alzheimer’s. Also included are $500 million in new funding for the Food and Drug Administration and $1 billion in grants to help states deal with opioid abuse.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called the bill a “Christmas miracle … that will help virtually every American family.”
The bill, however, had vocal progressive critics who said the bill’s changes to drug approval processes gave too many concessions to pharmaceutical companies.
Public Citizen called it “sorely disappointing that Congress gave Big Pharma and the medical device industry an early Christmas present” that “comes at the expense of patient safety by undermining requirements for ensuring safe and effective medications and medical devices.”
But the bill won wide support from Democrats. DeGette and Sen. Patty Murray, DWash., negotiated key provisions to boost research funding.
Voting against the bill were Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
On Wednesday, the president praised its final passage. “We are now one step closer to ending cancer as we know it, unlocking cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s, and helping people seeking treatment for opioid addiction finally get the help they need,” Obama said in a statement.