The U.S. Senate voted 94-5 to pass bipartisan legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act, to facilitate medical research and innovation, accelerate the delivery of medical treatments to patients by advancing the drug approval process, and improve our mental health system.
The legislation also creates a mechanism for providing funding to address the growing opioid epidemic, and to advance National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiatives, such as Alzheimer’s research and Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot.
Following the vote, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued a statement noting that a number of his priorities to expand access to chronic care and infusion treatments and provide additional Alzheimer’s research funding were included in the final bill. It now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“This bipartisan legislation will encourage biomedical innovation to target deadly diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s and help scientists and researchers deliver cures to patients. It will also expand access to critical mental health services, and provides a way to send much-needed help to hard-hit communities in Virginia and the rest of the country struggling with the devastating effects of opioid and heroin abuse,” said Sen. Warner. “I am particularly pleased that the bill also includes some of my proposed approaches to expand care for individuals suffering from chronic diseases. While the bill is not perfect, it is a balanced compromise that will help us improve our nation’s health system and enhance patient outcomes.”
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on final Senate passage of the 21st Century CURES Act.
“Thanks to this bipartisan legislation, our nation’s top researchers will have additional resources they need to find cures and treatments for the devastating diseases that touch us all. The bipartisan 21stCentury CURES Act includes critically important funding for breakthrough biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health, including the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The bill also includes $1 billion in funding to combat the opioid abuse crisis, which was recently declared a public health emergency in Virginia, as well as policies to improve access to mental health care.”
The 21st Century Cures Act makes significant changes to how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests and approves medical treatments that are brought to the market. It also will help NIH researchers deliver new cures by enhancing our research workforce, facilitating collaborative research, and providing a mechanism for Congress to provide nearly $3 billion in additional funding for NIH biomedical research initiatives—like the BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives—over the next decade, to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s and create new research models to find cures and better target treatments.
An additional $1 billion could also be provided in funding to fight the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic. Finally, the 21st Century Cures Act includes landmark reforms to modernize our nation’s mental health system, by giving the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) new tools to ensure mental health coverage parity.
The following list includes several provisions advocated by Sen. Warner that were included in the final bill:
- Home Infusion: Includes a version of Sen. Warner’s legislation to allow Medicare beneficiaries who need intravenous medication to receive their infusion treatments from the comfort of their home. The language included in the final bill provides this benefit for many Medicare-covered drugs.
- Chronic Care: Incorporates two measures from the bipartisan CHRONIC Care Act. These provisions expand patient choice by allowing Medicare beneficiaries with end-stage renal disease to choose a Medicare Advantage plan beginning in 2021, and help Medicare Advantage plans better provide care to patients with multiple chronic conditions by more accurately accounting for these individuals.
- NIH funding: Sen. Warner has long championed increased funding investments in NIH’s biomedical research during the annual appropriations process. He is a lead Senate supporter in the Senate of the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act to support NIH’s pediatric medical research, which was signed into law by the President in April 2014 and honors the memory of Gabriella Miller, a young girl from Leesburg who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor the size of a walnut at age 9. As Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, Sen. Warner also regularly advocatesfor increased funding to cure Alzheimer’s disease. The 21st Century Cures Act provides a mechanism for increased funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including for the BRAIN Initiative, focused on enhanced understanding of brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and the Cancer Moonshot. In addition, legislation cosponsored by Sen. Warner, the EUREKA Act, is included and would require NIH to establish prize competitions to achieve high-priority breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care.
- Additional measures from legislation cosponsored by Sen. Warner: The 21st Century Cures Actincludes text from the Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment Act, which would preserve patient access to durable medical equipment in rural areas so that beneficiaries have access to quality items and services in all parts of the country. Cures also includes language in the spirit of the Anna Westin Act, which clarifies the coverage of eating disorder benefits.