Earlier today, by a vote of 94 to 5, the United States Senate overwhelmingly passed the 21st Century Cures Act. On Wednesday, November 29th, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the 21st Century Cures Act by a vote of 392 to 26.
The Cures Act now goes off to the White House for the President’s signature, where it will receive a warm reception. “I’ll sign it as soon as it reaches my desk, because like a lot of you I’ve lost people I’ve loved deeply to cancer,” President Obama said in his weekly address on December 3, 2016, as he called upon Congress to act swiftly to pass the legislation and send it to the White House.
Voting “NO” for the Cures Act in the Senate were Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mike Lee (R-UT). Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) did not vote on the bill.
“Right now we have one more chance to put our best minds to work, and in a big way,” President Obama said during his weekly address. “There is a bill in Congress that could help unlock a cure for Alzheimers, and cancer as we know it, and help people seek treatment for opioid addition and get the help that they need. It’s called the 21st Century Cures Act. It is an opportunity to save lives and it is an opportunity we just can’t miss.”
President Obama concluded his weekly address saying: “I believe we should seize every chance we have to find cures as soon as possible. When it is your family hope can’t come soon enough.”
In a statement by the President released after passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in the Senate, the President said:
We are now one step closer to ending cancer as we know it, unlocking cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s, and helping people seeking treatment for opioid addiction finally get the help they need. The bipartisan passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is an example of the progress we can make when people from both parties work together to improve the health of our families, friends and neighbors.
Broadly speaking, the Cures Act will:
- Invest $1 billion to address the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic;
- Invest $1.8 billion into cancer research in order to accelerate discoveries to answers the Vice President Biden’s call for a Cancer Moonshot;
- Invest $3 billion to build upon the major biomedical research initiatives known as the BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives, which are tackling diseases like Alzheimer’s and creating new research models to find cures and better target treatments;
- Takes important steps to improve mental health; and
- Improve the Food and Drug Administration’s drug development process by making sure patients’ voices are part of the decision making process.
More specifically, the 21st Century Cures Act will establish a U.S. Treasury fund called the NIH and Cures Innovation Fund. That fund will receive $1.86 billion per year over four fiscal years up to 2020. Each year, $1.75 billion of those funds would be reserved for biomedical research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including basic, translational and clinical research. At least $500 million of these NIH funds will be used for an Accelerating Advancement Program to partner with national research institutes and national centers to accomplish biomedical research objectives. Of the remaining $1.25 billion or less, at least 35 percent will be allocated to early stage investigators which have earned at most one NIH competitive grant; at least 20 percent allocated for “high-risk, high-reward research”; and at most 10 percent reserved for intramural research. The other $110 million left in the yearly budget will be allocated to a cures development program and will fund drug manufacturing studies, health software and obtaining data on disease history.
“The 21st Century Cures Act, passed by the Senate today with overwhelming bipartisan support, is an important victory for medical innovation that will help expedite the development of the next generation of breakthrough medicines to save lives and reduce suffering for millions of patients, while helping to lower other healthcare costs,” said James C. Greenwood, who serves as the President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).
UPDATED Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 at 5:50pm ET to include reference to Senators who voted “NO” and did not vote.