Federal legislation aimed at accelerating medical innovation cleared the U.S. House Friday by a 344-77 vote.
The bipartisan "21st Century Cures Act" is meant to quicken both the development of new cures and the Food and Drug Administration's approval process of medial treatments. The Senate is crafting a separate measure to tackle similar issues.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL,17) was among those who voted in support of the House bill.
"As someone who has lost loved ones to illness far too soon and worked in healthcare for many years, I know firsthand the importance of innovation and investment in biomedical research," Bustos said in a statement. "I am pleased by the passage of this plan to modernize our healthcare and medical research systems to foster the next generation of great medical breakthroughs and scientific discoveries. These reforms will make a real difference in the lives of patients and their families."
Bustos' office detailed some of the key items in the legislation:
Provides $8.75 billion in mandatory funding for NIH [National Institutes of Health] over the next five years
Promotes the maintenance of the best biomedical workforce in the world, including increasing the diversity of the biomedical workforce
Modernizes clinical trials and supports inclusion of diverse populations in clinical research
Encourages the development of next generation treatments
Makes improvements to how FDA approves new drugs and devices
Provides FDA with Resources to Keep Pace with Innovation
Reduces Unnecessary Administrative Burdens on NIH and FDA
Although an overwhelming number of House members supported the bill, and many pharmaceutical and biomedical firms also endorsed it, there were concerns. Conservatives didn't like the mandatory National Institutes of Health funding item, for example, and Democrats objected to a Republican-backed rider with Hyde Amendment language banning federal funds for abortion services.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9) voted for the bill, but raised concerns over the abortion language. Here's the statement Schakowsky issued after the vote:
We stand on the brink of reaching medical breakthroughs that could finally cure diseases that take the lives of millions of Americans. That's why I voted in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act today, because of the hope it holds for patients and families across the country. Scores of people have come into my office and asked for Congress to fund research that can cure diseases that impact them or their family members.
With this legislation, we have the ability to improve and save millions of lives and to make good on the promise that biomedical research holds. I am very pleased that we are providing additional funding for both the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and supporting our research communities. I also support streamlining and modernizing our approval processes for drugs and devices so that we can accelerate the approval of new more effective treatments and provide cures for the thousands of diseases that currently have none.
However, I remain concerned with a number of provisions in this legislation. First, I strongly oppose the inclusion of extraneous policy riders, including the Hyde Amendment, which were unnecessarily included at the 11th hour. Despite the fact that H.R. 6 is a bill designed to improve health, the Hyde Amendment will actually harm women's health and wellbeing. We must end the Hyde amendment and make sure that each woman has access to the health care services they need.
In addition, while I support the goal of bringing breakthrough drugs and devices to market, I'm concerned some of these provisions could reduce consumer safety, including a lack of any requirement to study the effects prescription drugs and medical devices would have on women.
Finally, I am very concerned that nothing in the bill addresses the affordability of the treatments we hope to advance with this legislation. We are using taxpayer dollars to develop cures - we need to make sure that those cures are affordable for everyone. Unfortunately, an amendment I offered to increase the transparency of drug prices was not allowed to be considered.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to address these issues and further the promise of new treatments and cures as this legislation moves forward.