Senate Health Committee Approves Last of 19 Bipartisan Bills, Completing Work on Companion to House-Passed 21st Century Cures Act

Alexander says bipartisan proposals—along with agreement on NIH funding—could be on Senate floor soon and if passed, would be “the most important new law this year”

Posted on April 6, 2016

WASHINGTON, April 6 – Following a successful, bipartisan committee process and approval of the last of 19 bipartisan pieces of legislation that will become the Senate companion to the 21st Century Cures Act – passed last year by the House of Representatives in a vote of 344-77 – the chairman of the Senate health committee today said he is working to soon put the committee’s bipartisan proposals—along with a bipartisan agreement on NIH funding—into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) hands, making possible full Senate consideration of legislation to help “virtually every American.”

Senator Alexander today said: “Because our Innovation—or ‘Cures’—legislation will affect virtually every American, it will be the most important new law enacted this year. The legislation would create a breakthrough path for new medical devices like the breakthrough drug path approved in 2012 that has already attracted 384 applications and led to 39 approvals. It would give the FDA new authority to attract talented researchers, and reduce the administrative burden on NIH and researchers. It would target rare diseases, including diseases resistant to antibiotics. It would allow NIH to require researchers who use NIH funds to share their data. It would encourage interoperability of electronic medical records, reduction in excessive physician paperwork, clarify each patient’s right to own their own medical record, and discourage information blocking.”

He added, “The House has done its work. The president has proposed his initiatives. I am hopeful we can take this to the Senate floor soon and ensure the president’s Precision Medicine and cancer ‘moonshot’ initiatives and ideas in the ‘Cures’ bill can become reality this year.”

Alexander said that his goal is to present this companion legislation to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), along with a bipartisan "NIH Innovation Fund," which would provide a surge of one-time funding for targeted NIH priorities, including the president's Precision Medicine Initiative, the vice president’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative Young Investigator Corps, Big Biothink Awards and the BRAIN Initiative. He added, “With its 21st Century Cures Act passed last year, the House voted 344 to 77 to provide $8.8 billion in paid-for mandatory funding to support such NIH priorities. We continue to work to find an amount that the House will agree to, the Senate will pass and the president will sign.”

The Senate’s legislation is the result of 100 hours of meetings, 10 hearings and three markups, which has produced 50 different bipartisan legislative proposals. These proposals are intended to move safe and effective drugs, treatments and devices more rapidly, and at lower cost, through the investment and regulatory process and into the doctor's office and the medicine cabinets for the benefit of patients.

The following bills were passed by the committee today with bipartisan support:

Sens. Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Murray (D-Wash.) – (S. 2700) FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act:

This will help the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) attract and retain the talent they need to handle all the exciting developments headed their way for research and review—a top priority for the heads of both agencies.

Sens. Hatch (R-Utah) and Bennet (D-Colo.) – (S. 185) Promise for Antibiotics and Therapeutics for Health Act:

Imagine you’ve survived cancer or combat only to find out you’re infected with a superbug that resists treatment by standard antibiotics. This bill will shorten the development of new treatments to help those infected with these life-threatening superbugs.

Sens. Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Murray (D-Wash.) – (S. 2713) Advancing Precision Medicine Act of 2016:

This will support the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative to map 1 million genomes and make the information available to researchers who in turn will be required to share their research – all to help find treatments for diseases sooner.

Sens. Collins (R-Maine), Warren (D-Mass.), Kirk (R-Ill.), Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Alexander (R-Tenn.) & Murray (D-Wash.) – (S. 2745) Advancing NIH Strategic Planning and Representation in Medical Research Act:

This bill requires NIH to come up with a strategic plan every 6 years, and also helps ensure that scientists are including women and minorities in their research and reporting on the differences they find.

Sens. Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – (S. 2742) Promoting Biomedical Research and Public Health for Patients Act:

Researchers with NIH grants today spend 42 percent of their time filling out paperwork. This bill allows researchers at the NIH to spend more time finding life-saving treatments and cures and less time on paperwork.

On Feb. 9, the Senate health committee began its bipartisan process to get safe and effective treatments and cures to American patients more quickly, passing seven bipartisan bills, which included about 15 bipartisan proposals. At the committee’s second meeting on March 9, it passed another seven bipartisan bills, containing about 15 more bipartisan proposals. Following today’s successful conclusion to its Innovation agenda, the committee has now passed 19 bipartisan bills, containing about 50 bipartisan proposals and representing contributions from 16 Republican and Democratic members of the committee.

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