Washington, D.C. —Congress is poised to pass a funding bill this week that includes a $2.6 billion increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The measure, agreed upon by both House and Senate conference committee members, also provides $296 million increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and a $10 million increase for cancer control programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including for skin, prostate and ovarian cancer programs. There is an additional $20
million for the Office on Smoking and Health (OSH).
The bill also includes a measure to raise the federal age of sale for tobacco to 21, extends Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and U.S. territories, ensures funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers, which provide doctor-recommended cancer screenings to uninsured and underinsured people, and works to lower drug prices through greater generic and biosimilar prescription drug competition through the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples – CREATES Act.
A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:
“We’re excited to see the $2.6 billion funding increase for medical research at NIH in this bill, including the $296 million increase for the NCI. NCI has seen a 50 percent increase in research grant applications since 2013—far above any other Institute or Center—and funding has not kept pace with demand. The inclusion of new funding to address this issue recognizes NCI’s unique position and will directly lead to the development of new treatments and diagnostics for cancer patients.
The measure also continues funding for the implementation of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship Treatment, Access, and Research Act (STAR) and allocates money for a new childhood cancer data initiative. Congress should be commended for its ongoing commitment to continued development of innovative new cancer detection tools and treatments for patients and spurring scientific discovery across the country.
“The additional $10 million for cancer prevention and detection programs at the CDC will help ensure more low-income, uninsured people have access to timely cancer screenings, while the inclusion of cancer registries in the $50 million data modernization initiative at the CDC will improve the infrastructure necessary to compile and track essential cancer data. The additional $20 million for OSH will provide a much needed boost to efforts aimed at preventing kids from starting tobacco use and helping adults to quit.
“While we are pleased this legislation would raise the federal age of sale of all tobacco products to 21, this policy alone is not enough. Amid the ongoing youth tobacco epidemic with more than 5 million youth using tobacco products, lawmakers must move comprehensive legislation forward that removes all flavored tobacco products from the marketplace, including mint and menthol, and prohibits the online sale of all tobacco products in order to have a substantial impact on preventing youth use.
“Increasing Medicaid funding caps for Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories for two years is critical to helping cancer patients and survivors maintain access to life-saving treatments and follow-up care.
“Similarly, extending funding for federal qualified health centers ensures uninsured and underinsured Americans across the country can access the doctor-recommended cancer screenings they need when they need them.
“Patients throughout the country could also benefit from lower out-of-pocket prescription drug costs through the inclusion of the CREATES Act. CREATES has the potential to incentivize even more generic and biosimilar drug competition, giving patients less expensive access to lifesaving therapies.
“Keeping the medical expense tax deduction more broadly available will also provide necessary tax relief to more patients who have especially high out-of-pocket health care costs.
“On behalf of all those affected by cancer, we urge the full House and Senate to pass this bill before the December 20 deadline and send it to the president for his signature. Critical NIH research, cancer prevention and access to life-saving health coverage cannot wait.”