The 21st Century Cures Act, which would expedite the approval of new drugs, has garnered bipartisan support, but some on the right, including Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and the conservative group Heritage Action, have come out in opposition to the legislation because it includes mandatory spending measures. An amendment by Rep. David Brat (R-Va.) would change the funding provisions to discretionary spending.
Separate amendments filed by Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) would restore the funding boost to the NIH from $8.75 billion to $10 billion. Increasing funding for the NIH in the Cures bill has been a top priority for Democrats. The newest draft decreased the funding boost after the Energy and Commerce committee nixed a controversial provision that would allow the federal government to collect interest on Medicare Part D payments.
Welch’s amendment would restore the funding to $10 billion by “closing loopholes” that keep generic drugs from entering the market. He said the Congressional Budget Office informally estimated his amendment would save $2.35 billion.
Schakowsky’s amendment would increase the funding boost to $10.5 billion over five years, but does not include a way to pay for it. Her amendment would also nix a provision in the bill that grants exclusivity rights for rare disease drugs for 6 months. A separate amendment by conservative Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) would strike the same provision.
A bipartisan amendment would allow the NIH to conduct research for medical uses for marijuana. The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), would reschedule marijuana to an “I-R” drug. After the research is completed, the drug could be rescheduled as seen fit.
The House is expected to vote on the legislation later this week.
Correction: This article was updated to fix a typo in Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s name.