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Alexander: Senate Sends “Most Important Bill of the Year” to the President’s Desk

By 94-5, Senate passes 21st Century Cures bill to help find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s, fight opioid crisis

WASHINGTON, December 7— Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said “the most important bill of the year is headed towards the President’s desk,” after the United States Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act by a vote of 94 to 5:

“For the second consecutive year, the Senate is sending the President another Christmas miracle for his signature. Last year, it was the Every Student Succeeds Act, and this time, it’s the 21st Century Cures Act—a bill that will help virtually every American family. With its vote today of 94 to 5, the Senate has sent an unmistakable message that the time is now to deliver on the promise of 21st Century Cures.”

Senator Alexander continued: “This bipartisan legislation – which Majority Leader McConnell has called 'the most important legislation Congress will pass this year' – will help us take advantage of the breathtaking advances in biomedical research and bring those innovations to doctors’ offices and patients’ medicine cabinets around the country. This legislation will advance Vice President Biden’s moonshot to find cures for cancer, President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, and the BRAIN Initiative – and it will help states in the fight against opioid abuse and the one in five adults in this country suffering from a mental illness. I look forward to the president’s signature.”

This past weekend, President Obama voiced his strong support for this bill, in his weekly address to the nation saying: “Like all good legislation, [the bill] reflects compromise.  This week, the House passed it overwhelmingly, and in bipartisan fashion.  The Senate will vote in the next few days, and I hope they’ll do the same.  I’ll sign it as soon as it reaches my desk, because like a lot of you, I’ve lost people I love to cancer.  I hear every day from Americans whose loved ones are suffering from addiction and other debilitating diseases.  And I believe we should seize every chance we have to find cures as soon as possible.  When it’s your family, hope can’t come soon enough.”

The 21st Century Cures agreement will:

  • Help bring safe drugs and devices to market more quickly and at less cost by making needed reforms to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including: expedited review for breakthrough devices, increased patient involvement in the drug approval process, a streamlined review process for combination products that are both a drug and device, and freedom from red tape for software like fitbits or calorie counting apps.
  • Provide $4.8 billion to National Institutes of Health, including: $1.8 billion for Vice President Biden’s "Cancer Moonshot” to speed cancer research; $1.4 billion for President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative to drive research into the genetic, lifestyle and environmental variations of disease; and $1.6 billion for the BRAIN Initiative to improve our understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's and speed diagnosis and treatment.
  • Provide $500 million to the FDA.
  • Provide $1 billion in grants to states to address the opioid crisis.
  • Address the country’s mental health crisis and help the one out of five adult Americans suffering from mental illness receive the care they need.
  • Improve electronic health records for doctors and their patients.