U.S. Senate passes 21st Century Cures Act

The U.S. Senate has passed the 21st Century Cures Act by a 94-5 vote, bringing the legislation before President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.

The legislation includes a variety of provisions designed to address different issues in healthcare, including funding to combat the opioid epidemic, support medical research for cancer, and speed up the approval of medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

It includes the establishment at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) of an NIH Innovation Account, which will provide $4.8 billion in support of medical research programs. Of that, $1.8 billion will be allocated over seven years to the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot, an effort to accelerate the treatment of cancer.

The legislation received bipartisan support in Congress as well as from President Obama, but it was opposed by consumer groups and some liberal Democrats who view it as a gift to the pharmaceutical industry. The bill includes provisions that would allow a more streamlined regulatory pathway through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for some "breakthrough" medical technologies.

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