21st Century Cures Act goes to Obama after Senate passage

21st Century Cures Act goes to Obama after Senate passage
The 21st Century Cures Act is heading to President Barack Obama’s desk after passing the Senate. Many are celebrating, but progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are concerned that it will provide handouts to the pharmaceutical industry.

The 21st Century Cures Act passed the Senate Wednesday in a 94-5 vote and is set to land on President Barack Obama’s desk. Obama has already spoken out in support of the bill and said he’ll be happy to sign it into law. Many have welcomed this bill as not only a step forward for medical research, but also as a sign of bipartisan unity.

The act expedites the process for drugs to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and increases funding to the to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, it includes funding for opioid abuse prevention and treatment as well as boosts for the mental health care system.

"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," Obama said of the act.

However, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) have rallied against the bill out of concern that the pharmaceutical industry has hijacked it.

Following its passage, Warren took to Twitter to commend aspects of the bill that she had supported, such as her “bipartisan provision to strengthen Senator Kennedy’s work to protect the genetic privacy of patients” and support “the development of genetically-targeted therapies for people with rare diseases."

However, she also mentioned the drawbacks, saying, “I’m disappointed by the price we paid for the GOP to pass the bill,” and “Republicans concluded that bipartisan medical innovation in the #CuresAct would require a raft of giveaways to giant drug companies.

Prior to Wednesday’s vote, a member of Sanders’ team blasted Congress for passing the bill in the first place, saying, “Why won't Republicans support Trump's position that we should lower drug prices by negotiating prices and re-importing prescription drugs?

Their resistance to the Cures Act is based on several provisions of the bill that consumer groups are equally concerned about. One of the largest provisions of the bill is to speed up the approval of drugs which Kim Monk of Capital Alpha Partners, a policy research firm for investors, told the New York Times amount to “a holiday win for much of the health sector.

Another aspect of the bill is what it doesn’t do, such as cap the rapidly increasing prices of drugs. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) voted against the Cures Act because, "when the cost of our prescription drugs is skyrocketing, this bill does nothing to combat excessive prices,” she told the Times.

DeLauro did not believe that the allocation of $4.8 billion to the NIH is enough to justify its passage, saying, “While the bill authorizes $4.8 billion to the NIH over the next 10 years – on average, a mere $480 million a year – this is barely a quarter per year of what the House passed last year.”

There is also no guarantee that the appropriators will follow through and provide funding each year,” she added.