21st Century Cures Act’s Passage Also Suggests a Cure for Gridlock
Congratulations are due to Congresswoman Diana DeGette and a bipartisan team of lawmakers who managed what seems increasingly difficult in these days of hyper-partisanship and Washington gridlock: passage of a major bill full of promise for the American people.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the 21st Century Cures Act, which received massive support in both the House and Senate in recent days, after years of work on the part of DeGette, the Denver Democrat, and Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan.
As other wise souls have noted, getting a major bill that deals with health care passed with bipartisan support after the animosity left by the Democrats-only passage of the Affordable Care Act is no small accomplishment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill’s passage “the most significant legislation passed by this Congress.”
We’ve cheered for the legislation, arguing, as DeGette and Upton have observed, that the status quo for getting new drugs and medical devices to the marketplace in this country takes far too long, despite past congressional efforts. Researchers at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, for example, found that in 2014 the cost of bringing a new prescription drug to market topped $2.6 billion and more than 10 years.
The long, costly slog contrasts with major advances in biotechnology and biomedicine.
The 21st Century Cures measure intends to streamline the approval process within the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration’s review of new treatments. It also provides means to combat opioid addiction and bolster mental health care.
The measure also helps fund the so-called “cancer moon-shot” effort that Vice President Joe Biden has launched and helps fund research into brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
DeGette worked with Upton to hold numerous public discussions in Colorado and other states, as well as policy discussions with medical and policy experts, to better understand the challenges and build support for solutions.
“Fred and I worked with everyone we could think of,” DeGette told us recently.
No effort is without its critics, and the 21st Century Cures Act has them. Progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren argue the legislation gives too many concessions to the pharmaceutical companies. Lawmakers will need to keep a watch on this worry going forward.
Despite its critics, the bill achieved the amazing in gaining overwhelming support from both sides of the political divide.
Because of that support, this legislation is likely to serve as a model for future lawmakers intent on seeing their work not only make it to the president’s desk, but remain successful. As Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander told The New York Times, “The next administration or the next Congress will not be repealing the Cures Act, because we have taken the time to work out our differences, and create a consensus of support.”
We look forward to the results and offer our thanks to DeGette for her leadership on this issue.