Details could come Wednesday for new ‘cures’ bill

Senior members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are close to completing a new draft of their long-awaited 21st Century Cures bill, which could be released as early as Wednesday.

Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) are expected to release the latest draft of the legislation after a joint trip to Upton’s home state of Michigan to promote their initiative, which aims to speed up the development of new medicines and treatments.

ADVERTISEMENT

“This week really does become crunch time,” a Democratic aide said.

The plans released this week will not come in the form of a completed bill, but will provide important details about the bill's fate. The scope of the bill will likely signal whether the legislation stands a chance of meeting the committee’s anticipated timeline.  

Upton had said he wants to hold a hearing before April 30 and passage of the bill before Memorial Day.

Committee leaders from both parties are expecting the legislation to attract far more support than the first version released in January, which was not endorsed by the initiative's second-in-command, DeGette, or Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).

That version, which was nearly 400 pages, was heavy on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health — two areas that the aide said are likely to be included in the latest draft.

The same day that draft was released in January, Upton and Degette began meeting with several other members to help advance the legislation, such as Pallone, Rep. Gene Greene (D-Texas) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), who leads the health subcommittee.

“As things are standing right now, there’s a lot of consensus on a lot of areas,” the aide said.

Reforming the FDA will be particularly tricky. The agency controls the approval process for nearly all drugs and treatments and has been a major source of complaints for U.S. drug companies. Still, healthcare officials and experts have urged caution in changing the way potentially harmful drugs are regulated.

The much-touted bipartisan initiative is the result of more than 18 months of discussions with industry groups and lawmakers.