ELIZABETH WARREN VOTED AGAINST THE 21ST CENTURY CURES ACT BECAUSE IT WAS LOADED WITH BIG PHARMA GIVEAWAYS THAT PUT PROFITS OVER PATIENT SAFETY
Elizabeth spent years working on a bill that would fund medical research. Ultimately, however, she voted against the final proposal, the 21st Century Cures Act, after big pharma lobbyists convinced their Republican allies in the Senate to load up the bill with drug company giveaways and provisions that put patients at risk for the sake of corporate profits.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Elizabeth spent two years in negotiations on the 21st Century Cures Act. The final bill even incorporated important legislative proposals that Elizabeth wrote herself. She led a sustained effort to rally support for increased NIH funding in the legislation, and supported many of its provisions.
About six months before the Cures Act passed, however, special interests had already spent as much as $500 million lobbying on the legislation. By the time the bill landed on the floor of the Senate, it was stuffed full of provisions added to benefit big drug companies and their allies. 1,634 individual lobbyists representing 455 corporations and interest groups worked around the clock to bend the 21st Century Cures Act to fit their own interests. That’s more than three lobbyists for each member of the House and Senate combined! CBS News called it the “most lobbied bill in recent history.”
Here’s just some of the carve-outs and loopholes pharmaceutical industry lobbyists managed to slip into the 21st Century Cures Act:
- Allowing pharmaceutical companies to advertise “off-label” uses of drugs — uses of those drugs that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration — to insurance companies and other payers. Since 1991, drug companies have paid more than $11 billion in penalties for unlawful promotion – primarily off-label marketing – making it the single largest source of penalties against the pharmaceutical industry. This provision would make it easier for big pharma to get away with this kind of fraud.
- Letting a major donor to Mitch McConnell and his super PAC sell patients stem cell therapies that had not been proven safe or effective, putting patients at risk. This shady, potential pay-to-play deal could hurt Americans — over an eight-month period last year, 12 patients who had received unapproved stem cell treatments were hospitalized with infections like E. Coli.
- Handing the Trump Administration broad authority to allow the FDA to approve drugs without evidence from “gold standard” scientific experiments, which could “distort the true benefits and risks of a drug.”
- Lowering standards to approve high-risk medical devices, even if the devices had no “clinically meaningful” advantages, putting patients in danger.
Elizabeth is a leader in government efforts to support medical research, but she didn’t go to Washington to work for big drug companies. She believes that the health and well-being of patients is more important than the bottom line of the pharmaceutical industry or Republican donors. So despite her years of work and the beneficial parts of the legislation, she voted against this bill after it was filled up with provisions that compromised patient safety to juice private profits.
The 21st Century Cures Act is one of the most lobbied pieces of legislation in recent history.
THE 21ST CENTURY CURES ACT SLASHED FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
While the 21st Century Cures Act did provide funding to some initiatives that Elizabeth supports, it did so in part by cannibalizing existing funding for critical health programs under the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. More than half of the bill’s funding came from cutting $3.5 billion from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health fund, which was used to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer, and increase vaccine use. The American Cancer Society’s Action Network had urged lawmakers not to cut the Prevention Fund.
ELIZABETH NEVER STOPPED FIGHTING TO IMPROVE THE 21ST CENTURY CURES ACT
Elizabeth never stopped fighting to improve the 21st Century Cures Act, both before and after its passage.
In the final days before its passage, Elizabeth urged Democratic leadership to negotiate harder to improve the bill. Elizabeth and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley also successfully fought to remove a loophole that would allow pharmaceutical companies not to disclose some kickback payments to doctors. Elizabeth’s pressure helped secure a provision to ensure that money to fight the opioid crisis went to the communities that needed it most. Senator Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, credited Warren’s push with improving the bill.
And she’s still fighting. Just last year, Elizabeth co-sponsored legislation to improve the Cures Act’s opioid grant program by allowing grants directly to tribes and to allow states flexibility to use the funds more effectively.
ELIZABETH HAS LED THE FIGHT TO END THE OPIOID CRISIS, INCREASE FUNDING FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH, AND LOWER PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS
In the Senate, Elizabeth has led the fight against the opioid epidemic, for better medical research, and for lower prescription drug costs. She’s built a “formidable record on the opioid crisis” and has introduced a sweeping plan to provide $100 billion to fight the opioid epidemic, which experts call “the best bill in Congress on the issue.”
In 2017, she brought together a coalition of Senators that successfully secured an additional $100 million to fight the opioid epidemic and $2 billion for medical research in the 2017 spending bill. Elizabeth also proposed legislation to cap the amount families have to spend out-of-pocket on prescription drugs and to let the government manufacture generic drugs to address shortages that caused prices to spike.
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Most presidential candidates aren’t talking much about the opioid epidemic. But Warren wants to put serious resources toward ending the crisis.