The bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act), which was passed by Congress and signed into law this month, provides a measure of hope this holiday season for those suffering from devastating illnesses. This legislation represents a significant investment in the future of our country, with funding to accelerate the discovery and development of new cures and treatments for rare disorders, cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. It provides a significant increase in federal support for lifesaving biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will impact the life of every American – certainly every American family.
Right now half of all men and a third of all women in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetime. The Cures Act’s ‘Cancer Moonshot’ provision will hopefully change those statistics and reduce both the prevalence of and the costs associated with cancer. It will focus on accelerating research, making therapies available to a wider range of patients and improving early-state detection – with the ultimate goal of preventing the disease altogether.
The best way to improve outcomes for Americans with diseases is consistent support of medical research. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, this has been a top priority of mine as we make funding decisions. NIH-supported research over the last several decades has raised life expectancy, improved the quality of life and lowered overall health care costs for millions. Given the progress we have made over the last century and the great potential current research holds, we must continue our commitment to advance cures and treatments.
Medical research also helps us develop new pharmaceutical strategies to fight diseases, and this legislation brings a patient-focused view to drug development. We need reforms at the FDA that speed up the approval of new medicines and medical equipment without sacrificing the FDA’s standards in the process of curing and treating Americans – especially as prescription drugs are increasingly used to treat diseases.
After visiting several of Kansas’ community mental health care centers and both Larned and Osawatomie State Hospitals, I have developed a greater appreciation of how critical it is to prioritize mental health treatment. Opioids have been a topic of conversation in the Senate for the last several years as millions across the country – in both urban and rural areas – struggle with addiction. Important sections of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which represent some of the most significant reforms to the mental health system in more than a decade, are included in the Cures Act. It is a much-needed follow-up to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which I supported and which became law earlier this year, to help curb the spread of opioid abuse in communities across the country.
For the more than 11.5 million Americans living with a debilitating mental illness, the Cures Act will bring relief by focusing on improving mental health treatment and access, increasing funding for suicide prevention efforts, and combining a number of important mental health reforms to coordinate system-wide efforts.
The Cures Act also accelerates opportunities for smart, talented individuals across the country who wish to devote themselves toward the cause of improving Americans’ health and quality of life. To attract and retain the best and brightest researchers, NIH must be able to rely on sustainable funding from Congress. While the broad, bipartisan support for the Cures Act is a significant achievement, I intend to build on that success by continuing to support NIH. Over the last two years, the Health Appropriations Subcommittee I serve on has reprioritized funding by $4 billion, and I will continue working with my colleagues on the Senate NIH Caucus to encourage a greater understanding of how investing now will save our country billions in health care costs in the future.
In addressing these priorities, the Cures Act is the kind of policy change that truly impacts every American. It is progress we can be thankful for this holiday season as we gather with our loved ones and remember how precious our time together is. We all know someone who has suffered from a deadly disease, and this new law gives hope to families across the country that treatments and cures are on the way.