Cancer Policy Priorities Gain Momentum on Capitol Hill

March 17, 2022

Capitol Hill has been in high gear this week, with both chambers of Congress holding legislative hearings considering bills backed by the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All of this action comes just a few weeks before ASCO’s annual Advocacy Summit and Week of Action, where ASCO members are encouraged to connect with their Members of Congress about policies and legislation that impact cancer care and research.

This week’s Hill activity includes:

U.S. Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Executive Session

The Senate HELP Committee met on March 15 to consider the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act), a sweeping package that includes several ASCO-backed provisions to mitigate drug shortages, strengthen our national supply chain, increase diversity in clinical trials, and address social determinants of health. ASCO submitted comments to the HELP Committee and will be monitoring the legislative package as it moves forward.

The PREVENT Pandemics Act also includes language to authorize the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the Biden Administration’s proposed new biomedical research agency focused on high-risk, bold, translational research projects.

The proposal considered by the Committee would authorize ARPA-H within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) but outside of the Washington, DC region, and would grant the President the ability to appoint a Director for a four-year term with the ability for a second term. The authorizing language also makes clear that ARPA-H should not duplicate any work normally completed by the NIH or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and clarifies that any funding for ARPA-H would be separate from other NIH funding requests. Read ASCO’s principles, which were developed to guide Congress as it considers the proposed new agency.

U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Public Hearing

On March 17, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is holding a public hearing to discuss legislation that they anticipate may advance later this year with must-pass legislation reauthorizing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) user fee programs. The hearing included discussion on the 21st Century Cures 2.0 Act (Cures 2.0), which would increase diversity of clinical trials, expand patient access to telehealth, and provide a much-needed boost in funding to research institutions. The subcommittee will also hear about two ASCO-backed bills, the DIVERSE Act & DEPICT Act, which both aim to increase diversity in clinical trials. In addition, the hearing will include discussion about legislation to strengthen the accelerated approval program and to authorize ARPA-H, among others. ASCO has been in contact with the Committee to share priorities for inclusion in User Fee Reauthorization Legislation.

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Drug Pricing

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on March 16 entitled “Prescription Drug Price Inflation: An Urgent Need to Lower Drug Prices in Medicare.” ASCO continues to monitor congressional action on drug pricing proposals and will continue to weigh in to ensure patients continue to have access to the life-saving therapies they need.

One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) Hill Day 

On March 15, ASCO joined a coalition of national non-profits in advocating for an increase in federal funding for cancer research in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. Congress recently passed the FY 2022 federal funding bill, which provided a significant increase in funding for cancer research, but robust and sustained investment is critical to maintain momentum in cancer research.

This momentum for cancer policy policies is in part due to ongoing advocacy by ASCO and its members. Sign up for the ASCO ACT Network now to lend your voice in support of policies to improve cancer research and care for patients with cancer.

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