Congress OKs re­search bill co-spon­sored by DeGette

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By The Wash­ing­ton Post

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.

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