Is the 21st Century Cures Act a Solution or a Problem?

In December, 2016—a time when the U.S. Congress could barely agree on anything—the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate came together to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. Championed by Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the Act uses 312 pages to outline a plan to accelerate the licensing and delivery of medical cures. It includes many attractive features. But, as I will show here, it also contains provisions that could increase risks to patients. The Act was attractive because it provides about $6.3 billion in funding, mostly for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the major supplier of research funding for American universities and research institutions. Although the NIH faces very little political opposition, the agency had been deprived of adequate funding for at least a decade. Beyond support for the NIH, the Act was appealing because it provides funding for mental health care. It endorses parity in…

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