President Obama signed into law Friday an extension of a program designed to incentivize drug makers to find treatments to rare pediatric diseases. It was set to expire at the end of the month, but will now last until the end of the year.
The law creating the priority review voucher system for rare pediatric diseases was originally passed in 2012. Its sponsors, Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), have a bill extending it another five years, which is one of several bills passed by the Senate health committee earlier this year.
However, the legislation has not yet been packaged together and brought to the Senate floor. The 21st Century Cures bill, which passed the House last summer, also extends the priority review voucher system.
Under the Isakson-Casey law, drug companies are rewarded for bringing new treatments and cures for children’s diseases with a voucher, which will speed up review of another drug by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug company can either keep or sell this voucher.
Senate leaders originally wanted to pass the five-year extension of the 2012 law before recessing until November, but these efforts were blocked by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last week. They said no piece of Cures should pass in the Senate alone until a deal has been reached on additional National Institutes of Health funding. As an alternative, Sanders proposed the extension until the end of the calendar year.
This week, GOP leadership said they’re committed to passing Cures through both chambers and getting it signed into law in the lame-duck session after the election.
“I’m glad the president has acted today to keep this critical program from ending this year, and I look forward to getting a result on the 21st Century Cures legislation in the fall to deliver a longer term solution that will allow more doctors to tell parents there’s a treatment available to help their little boy or girl,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the health committee, in a statement.