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Cure Acts Passes House

The US House of Representatives today passed the 21st Century Cures Act. If law, this bill would give a boost of $1.75 billion a year for five years to biomedical research, NPR reports. This, the AP adds, would be in addition to any other funds Congress spends on domestic programs.

"We're very excited about the prospects for the 21st Century Cures Act," Dave Moore from the American Association of Medical Colleges tells NPR. "Back in 2003, [the National Institutes of Health] could fund about one out of every three grant applications it received. Now it funds one out of every six."

The funds for the bill would come from other federal sources, the AP notes, including from the sale of $7 billion of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while another $2.5 billion would come from lowering federal Medicaid reimbursements for certain medical equipment.

The bill also seeks changes to speed the drug approval process at the Food and Drug Administration. Existing drugs could be approved based in part on case studies and other approaches that are not as rigorous as traditional clinical trials, the AP says. The Wall Street Journal adds that the bill also would encourage the agency to rely more on biomarkers to assess drug and device effectiveness rather than longer trials.

The medical-device group Advanced Medical Technology Association, says this move would "increase the efficiency, predictability and transparency" of the FDA approval process.

However, critics like Michael Carome from Public Citizen say, the bill would "undermine public health and threaten patient safety," as he tells the Journal. Under this bill, he anticipates that full trials "will become the rare exception, rather than the rule."

NPR notes that the House version of the bill isn't the last word as the Senate is drafting its own.