House panel advances revised autism bill

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced autism research legislation Tuesday with a handful of tweaks, including a new title that heeds criticism from self-advocates with autism. 

Tuesday's mark-up changed the House Combating Autism Reauthorization Act into the Autism Collaboration, Accountability Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act. 

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Individuals with autism had protested the original title as "hurtful and stigmatizing" in a June 2 letter to lawmakers. 

Federal autism-related activities "should not be to 'combat' autism but rather to support autistic individuals and their families," a coalition of groups wrote. 

Lawmakers also changed the office responsible for a study on the needs of autistic children as they transition to adulthood and the services available to them. 

The report will be conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in coordination with other federal entities, not the Government Accountability Office. 

Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) hailed the measure as bicameral and bipartisan and vowed to "do all we can to fast-track it" for approval on the House floor. The current iteration of the Combating Autism Act is set to expire on Sept. 30. 

The mark-up followed the introduction of a similar Senate bill on Monday that included the title change and the report on young adults. 

Both bills would change the underlying statute by creating a new autism-oriented position at HHS to coordinate federal autism research and services. 

The committee also approved two other health-related measures.


One (H.R. 4299) seeks to cut delays in the Drug Enforcement Agency's rulings on certain new drug products. 

The other (H.R. 4709) seeks to prevent prescription drug abuse by facilitating collaboration between regulators and industry, and underwent one technical amendment from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).