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21st Century Cures Act receives bipartisan support from Warner, Kaine and Comstock

A landmark health care and medical research bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, is heading to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature after overwhelming approval from both chambers of Congress. The Senate passed the measure 94-5 on Wednesday, while the House approved on a 392-26 vote last week.

All of Loudoun County's federal lawmakers – Sen. Mark Warner (D), Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) – voted in favor of the proposal, which aims to speed up the Food and Drug Administration's review process for drugs and treatments, increase funding for cancer and other research at the National Institutes of Health and help fight the national opioid epidemic.

Comstock, who frequently touted her support of the bill on the campaign trail, called the Cures Act “a game changer in medical innovation in the fight for cures of chronic diseases.”

“This legislation will help the United States lead the way in medical research and brings hope to patients with cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions as we fight to find new cures,” Comstock, who won a second term in November's election, said in a prepared statement.

One of the most heavily lobbied bills in American history, the act also includes intended enhancements to mental health care by creating new positions within Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Kaine said the measure includes $1 billion in funding to combat the opioid abuse crisis, which was recently declared a Public Health Emergency in Virginia.

“Thanks to this bipartisan legislation, our nation’s top researchers will have additional resources they need to find cures and treatments for the devastating diseases that touch us all,” Kaine said in a statement. 

Warner, Kaine and Comstock all referenced the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which helps fund childhood cancer research at NIH, during debate of the bill. The Gabriella Miller act is named in honor of a Leesburg girl who lost her life to childhood cancer.

Nearly 1,500 lobbyists representing 400 companies lobbied for and against the measure.

While popular, the Cures Act wasn't without opposition, including from leaders of the Senate's liberal wing, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Sanders and Warren say the bill is a handout to “Big Pharma” given new drugs may now get to market quicker without being adequately tested.

Warner said the bill isn't perfect, but it's “a balanced compromise that will help us  improve our nation’s health system and enhance patient outcomes.” 

“I am particularly pleased that the bill also includes some of my proposed approaches to expand care for individuals suffering from chronic diseases,” said Warner, Virginia's senior senator.

President Obama has praised the bill and intends to sign it.

"It could help us find a cure for Alzheimer's," Obama said during his weekly address Dec. 3. "It could end cancer as we know it and help those seeking treatment for opioid addiction."