Elizabeth Warren accuses big pharma of hijacking ‘cures bill’

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren © Jonathan Ernst
Accusing Republicans of giving handouts to pharmaceutical industry, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts warned that the 21st Century Cures Act would speed up the FDA’s approval process, which she fears could put consumers at risk.

The 21st Century Cures legislation would give $4.8 billion to fund research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but Senator Warren is more concerned with the possibility of the bill enabling the pharmaceutical industry.

On Monday, she took to the Senate floor to blame Republicans for letting “Big Pharma hijack the cures bill.”

The bill includes several provisions popular with Democrats and progressives, such as funding to combat the opioid crisis and mental health treatment. However, Warren claims that these measures are nothing but “political cover for huge giveaways to giant drug companies.

The issues with the bill have to do with lowering the standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and removing the NIH’s mandatory funding, requiring the agency to go through an appropriations process every year.

However, Warren’s biggest stated issue with the bill is that it would lower the standards for approving new groups, as the bill is centered on expediting the process for life saving drugs. She is not the only one in the Senate who has issues with the bill. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has also split from the majority of Democrats over the bill.

Even some Republican senators are troubled by provisions in the 21st Century Cures bill. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Warren in expressing concerns over one provision that would weaken disclosure requirements for payments pharmaceutical companies make to doctors.

The bill will be voted on in the House on Wednesday and will go to the Senate soon after.