Spotlight on the Billion Dollar 21st Century Cures Act

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

No state has escaped the nationwide trend of opioid addiction. Every day, 2.1 million Americans abuse opioids; over 23,000 die each year due to heroin and prescription painkillers.

With such staggering numbers, legislators have essentially been forced to take action.

The 21st Century Cures Act aims to supply much-needed resources in the areas of opioid addiction research and treatment. The legislation, which recently passed the House by a vote of 392-26, is expected to pass the Senate soon (in time to be signed into law by President Obama).

Where is the Money Going?

This far-reaching Act earmarks $6 billion to cover the following initiatives:

  • $1 billion in grants to states, localities and service organizations working to fight the opioid epidemic. The Act gives priority to states with a high incidence of opioid addiction.
  • $1.5 billion for drug research and development that focuses on individualized treatment, rather than a one-size-fits-all
  • Expansion of mental health services

The Act will also revamp the prescription drug and medical device approval process. It provides:

  • $500 million for the FDA over the next ten years, to expedite the drug approval process
  • $14 million to adjust states’ coverage of a variety of healthcare services

Cures Act proponent, Rep. Peter Welch, notes, “Congress is finally poised to provide long overdue resources to assist states battling this heartbreaking scourge on our communities. In addition, this legislation will jumpstart research to find treatments and cures for life threatening diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

The Other Side

Not everyone sees the bill as a “saving grace.” Three years in the making, the 21st Century Cures Act has failed to gain 100 percent approval amongst elected officials.

In stark contrast to Welch, consumer advocacy organizations like Public Citizen argue that the legislation will be detrimental to drug approval standards, lowering them to unhealthy levels.

“We’ve already reached a point, we believe, where we’ve gone too far,” said Michael Carome, director of the organization’s health research group. “The existing regulations already provide a pathway for quick review for bringing drugs to market. And any further weakening would undermine where we are.”

Others, such as the conservative group Heritage Action, feel the Act favors the money-makers involved, rather than the public. Heritage wrote, “In Washington terms, back-room negotiators have turned the Cures bill into a Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests, all at the expense of the taxpayer.”

What Do You Think?

Will this funding make way for a better tomorrow? Or are the naysayers right? Will it take us in the wrong direction?

With over 165,000 deaths attributed to opiate-related overdoses since 2000, it’s clear we need to do something different. Will this Act be part of the solution we’ve been waiting for? Let us know how you feel about this piece of legislation in the comments section below.
Additional Reading: War on Opiates: Getting to Know the CARA Bill

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