- The 21st Century Cures Act, a sweeping bill which would provide $4.8 billion in new funding for biomedical research over the next decade, passed the House of Representatives Tuesday evening by an overwhelming vote of 392-26, earning strong bipartisan support.
- The legislation will now head to the Senate, which is expected to easily pass the bill sometime next week despite criticism from high-profile Senators Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Elizabeth Warren, D-MA.
- 'Cures' will provide $1.8 billion in funding to Vice President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot initiative, and earmark another nearly $3 billion toward the Precision Medicine and BRAIN initiatives.
Major industry associations PhRMA and BIO were quick to praise House passage of the bill.
"PhRMA applauds the House of Representatives for passing the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act to improve the discovery and development of new medicines for patients," the pharma trade group said in a statement.
In addition to the funding major research priorities, the bill also includes $1 billion for opioid abuse prevention through state grants over two years.
The White House has signaled it supports the bill and encouraged the Senate to promptly pass it for President Obama to sign into law.
The Senate plans to vote on cloture, a procedural step to advance legislation, for the bill Monday at 5:30 pm. Following a successful cloture vote, there is typically 30 hours of debate before a final vote on passage.
But the legislation is not without controversy. 'Cures' contains provisions aimed at speeding products through the FDA approval process, which some critics say weakens safety and efficacy standards.
Senator Warren, speaking in a speech on Senate floor Tuesday, said big pharma had "hijacked" the bill and argued the impressive-sounding funding totals wouldn't materialize unless future Congresses pass additional bills to appropriate the money.
Senator Sanders, another notable critic, blasted the bill for not including any provisions addressing the rising cost of drug prices. "At a time when Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, this bill provides absolutely no relief for soaring drug prices," the former presidential candidate said.
Yet the strong bipartisan vote in the House, coupled with support from the White House and industry, will likely mean 'Cures' passes easily in the Republican-controlled Senate.