Washington Post: Obama Signs 21st Century Cures Act

Paying tribute to both bipartisanship and his vice president — who was galvanized by his own son’s death to change the way the United States combats cancer — President Obama signed legislation Tuesday that aims to increase funding for medical research, speed the development and approval of experimental treatments and overhaul federal policy on mental health care.

“We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health-care challenges of our time,” Obama said. “It is wonderful to see how well Democrats and Republicans in the closing day of this Congress came together around a common cause. And I think it indicates the power of this issue and how deeply it touches every family across America.”

The 21st Century Cures Act had wide bipartisan support and has been held up as an example of what Congress can accomplish by working together. After a previous version of the bill stalled in the Senate for more than a year, a new version — cheered by the drug and medical device industry, patient advocates and universities — made a swift passage through the lame-duck session.

The measure’s critics — mainly consumer watchdog groups and health policy experts — have argued that the popular funding provisions mask a worrisome loosening of regulations at the Food and Drug Administration that could put patients at risk.

The bill contains several provisions that the White House has championed, including $1 billion for opioid abuse prevention and $4.8 billion for biomedical research funding, including Obama’s Precision Medicine initiative and the BRAIN initiative. A hefty chunk of that funding — $1.8 billion — is dedicated to cancer research, a part of the bill that was renamed the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot” in honor of the vice president’s late son, who died of a brain tumor. The bill also aims to strengthen mental health services and access.

Originally Published in the Washington Post: Read full article here.