President Barack Obama signed a new bill into law that will fund drug treatment. Known as the 21st Century Cures Act, the $6.3 billion bill was Vice President Joe Biden’s effort to “end cancer as we know it,” USA Today reported.
The emotional signing ceremony was likely the last for Obama as president.
“We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the biggest health challenges of our time,” said Obama. “We’re tackling cancer, brain disease, substance abuse disorders, and more,” he added. The president said the bill would not have been passed without “bipartisan cooperation from both houses of Congress.”
The 21st Century Cures Act was passed by the House of Representatives in a 392 to 26 vote and the Senate in a 94 to 5 vote.
The bill includes $1 billion over two years to fight the opioid addiction epidemic, and $1.8 billion for Biden’s cancer “moonshot” initiative. The package also included a mental health bill.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders opposed the bill. The two liberal senators said the measure was a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies and did nothing to address high drug prices, a hot-button issue.
The act streamlines the FDA’s approval process for new drugs. Those opposed to the measure feel the changes will lower safety standards.
The mental health portion of the package includes grants for suicide prevention and will require insurance companies to cover mental health services in the same way physical health services are covered.
“The bill will literally save lives,” said Biden. “Just its mere signing, Mr. President, as you know better than I, gives millions of Americans hope.”
Biden’s son Beau died from brain cancer in 2015.
Biden said the bill would bring fundamental changes to the fight against cancer by adding urgency to the effort.