Week ahead: Anti-skin-cancer bill gets its day in the sun

Legislation requiring regulators to speed up approvals of sunscreen ingredients widely in use overseas appears, at along last, headed for the House floor, where the bipartisan measure is expected to cruise to passage at the height of beach season.

A coalition of public health advocates and industry groups backing the Sunscreen Innovation Act is looking forward to a Monday vote on long-sought legislation requiring the Food and Drug Administration to hasten decisions on pending sunscreen approvals.

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That timing, coincidentally or not, would put the vote one day before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is scheduled to release the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.

The FDA has failed to act on eight pending applications, some of which have been awaiting approval for more than a decade and involve products that have been deemed safe in other countries.

“There is a significant problem with skin cancer in this country now,” Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a co-sponsor of the bill, said this month. “We are correcting that by allowing our consumers have access to substances that are not available in our country but have been available in Europe.”

Government statistics show that nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer, the most common form of the disease, with an annual cost of $8.1 billion.

Under the House legislation, the FDA must make a decision on new applications within 11 months and existing applications within eight months. The bill would not change other aspects of the approval process.

The bill is just the latest move by the House to reduce federal red tape in recent months. Though unlike nearly all of them, the sunscreen bill could be destined for President Obama’s desk, thanks to companion legislation in the Senate that also has bipartisan support.

Action on the bill is coming during a legislative week — the last before Congress jets off for a five-week summer break — that otherwise figures to be dominated by the debate over Obama’s bid to counter climate change with regulatory action.

On Monday, dueling events will kick off the festivities, with leading green groups scheduled to hold an11 a.m. briefing on the benefits of regulations proposed under the plan. At the same time, the conservative Heritage Foundation will hold an event seeking to expose the “extremism” at the Environmental Protection Agency, which is taking the lead on a host of contentious rules central to the president’s climate initiative. http://j.mp/1o0IRyv

Also Monday, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy will preview a slate of planned public hearings around the country in support of the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.

The two-day hearings will take place throughout the week in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Denver and Washington, and are certain to draw forceful arguments from groups on all sides of the issue.http://j.mp/1nDzLfc

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will jump into the action on Tuesday, when she’ll convene a hearing looking at the economic costs of inaction on climate change.http://j.mp/1rFksnZ

On Wednesday, the House Science Committee and its chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) will seek to punch back with a hearing entitled: “EPA’s Carbon Plan: Failure by Design.” http://j.mp/1xdcZfB

Later Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) will enter the fray with a press conference outside the Capitol to highlight the cost of the proposed EPA regulations on coal country. http://j.mp/1tL7pkt

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