When senators return to Washington next month,they will continue discussion on their version of the 21st Century Cures Act. But there is no indication they've agreed on the key funding concern.
Democrats have said guaranteed funding for the National Institutes of Health needs to be included in the legislation, but Republicans have argued that funding already exists and just needs to be reallocated.
The House passed the 21st Century Cures Act easily last July, with nearly $9 billion in increased funding. The bill aims to improve biomedical innovation processes. Supporters say it would speed up the regulatory approval of medical breakthroughs. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, decided to divide the act for discussion in his chamber into about 20 smaller bills. So far, 13 bills have been approved by the committee. The remaining seven will be debated April 6.
At the last markup, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) offered an amendment to provide $5 billion in the next 10 years for the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration, in addition to their regular appropriations.
Alexander said he would consider an innovations fund of some type, but has not said how much it might include.
Lawmakers working on the bill are wagering that their legislative efforts, coupled with the cancer “moon shot” proposal and the White House's Precision Medicine Initiative could add momentum to the 21st Century Cures Act.