Cures Act Passes House, Take Two

The US House of Representatives has passed the 21st Century Cures Act by a wide margin, as GenomeWeb has reported.

In a vote of 392 to 26, the legislative body approved a bill that would provide $4.8 billion over 10 years for National Institutes of Health programs like the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot project, and the Brain Initiative, while also giving $500 million to the Food and Drug Administration and overhauling some of its policies and streamlining drug approvals.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), two of the co-sponsors of the bill, say it is "an innovation game-changer, a transformational bill to bring our health infrastructure light years ahead to best match the incredible breakthroughs" in medicine, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The bipartisan bill has been in development since April 2014, Vox says, noting that drug companies, lobbyists, and patient advocacy groups have been pushing for its passage. The House passed a previous version of the bill in July 2015.

The bill has also drawn critics, notably Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who decried its provisions that change the level of evidence needed to approve existing drugs for new uses, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt).

"There are lot of good things in the bill," adds Yale University's Joseph Ross at Vox, "but they are all bungled together with things that undermine the FDA's regulatory authority."

However, as the White House has said that it supports the bill, flaws and all, it seems likely that it will be signed into law. It is "not perfect … but the legislation offers advances in health that far outweigh these concerns. The Senate should promptly pass this bill so that the President can sign it," it says in a statement.

The bill is to go before the Senate next week.

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