Congress returns in September from a seven-week recess—and ready, many patients and advocates hope, to push the 21st Century Cures Act over the finish line. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) expects the Senate to resume work on the bill, which he says could be “the most important legislation Congress passes this year.” The bill passed the House of Representatives in July 2015 with bipartisan support.
The 21st Century Cures Act
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee produced the original 21st Century Cures Act, designed to accelerate “the discovery, development and delivery of life saving and life improving therapies, and transforms the quest for faster cures.” H.R. 6 would:
- Remove barriers to increased research collaboration
- Incorporate the patient perspective into the drug development and regulatory review process
- Measure success and identify diseases earlier through personalized medicine
- Modernize clinical trials
- Remove regulatory uncertainty
- Provide new incentives for the development of drugs for rare diseases.
The Senate companion consists of 19 bills, reportedly the result of “100 hours of meetings, 10 hearings and three markups,” which initially resulted in 50 different proposals. Members of Congress must reconcile the Senate version with the House version before the bill goes to President Barack Obama’s desk.
Support for #CuresNow
Advocates and supporters of the legislation remain optimistic, however, that the bill can still be finalized in 2016. ResearchAmerica! kicked off its “Save Lives. Support Cures.” campaign August 1, joining with patients and advocates to petition Congress to finalize the highly anticipated bill.
The Coalition for Clinical Trials Awareness, an organization that advocates for increasing the public’s awareness of the benefits of clinical trials, also supports finalizing 21st Century Cures legislation. In a 2015 letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Rep. Diana DeGette, the organization called robust clinical trials a “societal imperative” and commended members of Congress on legislation that would aid the “discovery, development and delivery of innovative health care products and services” for patients.
The Senate resumes session on September 5.