WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a sweeping, $6.3 billion bill that supporters say will spur medical innovation, speed access to new drugs, expand access to mental health treatment and battle the opioid epidemic.
By a bipartisan vote of 392 to 26, the house approved the 21st Century Cures Act, which congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23) recently promoted as legislation that would support patients and those suffering with chronic illnesses. Reed said the bill is designed to encourage medical research for incurable illnesses. In addition, Reed says the bill will speed up the federal review process and reduce bureaucracy needed to approve new medical treatment options.
The bill also provides relief to rural hospitals by lessening the federal financial penalties in Medicaid payments when patients have to be readmitted to the institution for care.
Critics concerned with the bill say it would keep generics off the market longer for drugs treating rare diseases. Several nonprofit patient advocacy and research groups have also opposed the bill, citing concerns about endangering patients with simplified drug and device approvals.
The bill dedicates $5 billion for National Institutes of Health for targeted medical research and $500 million for the Food and Drug Administration to speed up the approval process for medicine and treatment options.
The bill heads to the U.S. Senate for a vote early next week. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the minority leader, acknowledged that there had been “angst” over the legislation among his colleagues, and several, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), have said they will oppose it.