The House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a long-stalled package of biomedical innovation bills along with a vote on whether to add state funding to fight opioid misuse.
A reworked 21st Century Cures Act was released over the holiday weekend by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
The Cures Act as now proposed includes funding for President Barack Obama's precision medicine initiative, the cancer "moonshot" effort and Alzheimer's research. The act creates innovation accounts for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration that would be replenished annually. Total funding for the NIH in the act is $4.8 billion.
It includes language to streamline FDA approval of some devices and creates guidance for regulating products that are a combination of drugs and devices.
The House first passed the Cures Act in July 2015 with a vote of 344-77. At the time it included $9.3 billion in mandatory funding to the NIH over five years. It stalled in the Senate on funding disagreements. It was broken up into several smaller bills that all passed committee but never got a full floor vote.
Advocates for the Cures Act have been pushing for action in the lame duck session before President-elect Donald Trump enters the White House and begins work on his own priorities. Passage is far from assured, however. House Democrats have not indicated their level of support and doubts remain how the Senate will vote.
Representatives will also vote Wednesday on adding mental health legislation to the act, including $1 billion in state grants to fight opioid misuse.
Mental health reform has likewise struggled because of financing questions. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the author of the Mental Health Reform Act, released a statement Sunday praising the decision to include the vote on mental health funding.
The American Association of Medical Colleges sent out a news release praising several aspects of the Cures Act. They thanked lawmakers for provisions that would take patient socioeconomic status into account in the Medicare readmissions reduction program and for ensuring that hospital outpatient departments already under construction will not see scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursement.
About a dozen patient advocacy groups said in October that the act should not be considered unless it also includes language on controlling prescription drug prices.