BRETT NORMAN, POLITICO
OCTOBER 25, 2015
The Senate’s companion effort to the House-passed 21st Century Cures is struggling to navigate a dramatically different political reality than the one that helped rocket the medical innovation bill through the lower chamber over the summer.
The HELP Committee is aiming to release its draft of the Innovations for Healthier Americans Act next month, but it missed earlier targets in September and October. If it’s not out soon, it won’t be possible to gather feedback and mark it up by the end of the year – the goal Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has set.
It will make fewer changes to how FDA reviews medical treatments – and will likely be less expensive – than the Cures bill the House overwhelmingly passed in July.
Since the summer, the debate over high prescription drug costs has intensified and complaints from public safety groups about Cures’ FDA reforms have grown louder. That’s drawn added scrutiny from Democrats to provisions viewed as pharma-friendly, as well as pressure to address drug prices, a highly partisan topic on the Hill.
“You have a House bill that has many negative aspects from a public health point of view and has one big positive aspect – a lot of additional money for NIH,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center of Health Research, and a critic of the House Cures bill. “You have a Senate that cannot create that same big pay-for. You can see why it’s not moving that quickly.”
The Senate is a very different place. The bill moved so quickly through the House that “by the time the criticism started coming out, it had already passed,” Zuckerman said.
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