House approves 21st Century Cures Act

The House of Representatives voted 392 to 26 Wednesday in favor of landmark legislation aimed to quickly bring new medicines to market and provide billions of dollars to fund medical research.

The 21st Century Cures Act now moves on to the Senate, which is expected to vote on the measure next week.

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The $6.3 billion bill had strong bipartisan support with advocates saying that it will fuel medical innovation, speed approval of prescription drugs and medical devices and provide patients with greater access to mental health services. But opponents argued that  the legislation gives leeway for pharmaceutical companies to push any drugs they want while cutting public health programs.

“This bipartisan legislation—which Majority Leader (Mitch) McConnell has called ‘the most important legislation Congress will pass this year’—will help us take advantage of the breathtaking advances in biomedical research and bring those innovations to doctors’ offices and patients’ medicine cabinets around the country,” said Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in a statement after the vote.

“This legislation will advance Vice President Biden’s moonshot to find cures for cancer, President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, and Alzheimer’s research—and it will help states in the fight against opioid abuse and the one in five adults in this country suffering from a mental illness,”

The bill will provide:

  • $4.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health, including: $1.8 billion for the "Cancer Moonshot” to speed cancer research; $1.4 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative to drive research into the genetic, lifestyle and environmental variations of disease; and $1.6 billion for the BRAIN initiative to improve understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's and speed diagnosis and treatment.
  • $500 million to the Food and Drug Administration.
  • $1 billion in grants to states to address the opioid crisis