WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate approved a sweeping bill meant to hasten the approval of medical devices and drugs while also paying for medical research and treatment of several diseases.
Passage was expected. The 95-4 vote Wednesday afternoon was greeted by a message of congratulations from President Obama, who indicated he will sign it.
"We are now one step closer to ending cancer as we know it, unlocking cures for diseases like Alzheimer's, and helping people seeking treatment for opioid addiction finally get the help they need," the president said in a statement. "The bipartisan passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is an example of the progress we can make when people from both parties work together to improve the health of our families, friends and neighbors."
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken supported the bill. Each contributed to its wide-ranging content. Klobuchar pointed to her advocacy for opioid addiction treatment and Franken to changes in the way the criminal justice system treats the mentally ill.
The Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), which represents many of Minnesota's 400 medical technology companies, called the bill "a win for patients and for medical innovation."
Minnesota's Mayo Clinic is expected to enjoy new research opportunities because of the bill.
In a statement, Dr. John Noseworthy, Mayo's CEO, specifically applauded "inclusion of administrative simplification, additional funding for the National Institutes of Health and efforts to address mental health reform, [the] opioid abuse crisis and review [of] Medicare's policy on telehealth."
Mayo said that $263.6 million of the $269.6 million it received in state and federal funds in 2015 came from the National Institutes of Health.
The bill also offered treatment for eating disorders, an addition pushed by Minnesotan Kitty Westin, whose daughter Anna died of an eating disorder.
Among groups not pleased with the result was the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, which believed it opens the way for companies to promote devices and drugs for non-FDA-approved uses and risks patients' health by reducing the amount of research companies must do to prove the safety and effectiveness of products.