What We're Reading: Senate Passes 21st Century Cures Act

What we’re reading, December 8, 2016: Senate overwhelmingly passes the 21st Century Cures Act, sending it to President Obama for approval; Surgeon General issues a report calling for action to reduce e-cigarette use by young people; soaring costs of naloxone may hinder efforts to prevent opioid overdoses.

The Senate voted 94-5 in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act, the sweeping bill that will fund National Institutes of Health research, mental illness and substance abuse treatment, and FDA reform. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, called the bill’s passage “a Christmas miracle…that will help virtually every American family.” The legislation now heads to President Barack Obama, who has vowed to sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

A new report from the Surgeon General calls the use of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults a “major public health concern.” The Call to Action includes steps like regulating e-cigarette marketing and sponsoring media campaigns to educate the public on the dangers of e-cigarettes, especially for young people. “Although we continue to learn more about e-cigarettes with each passing day, we currently know enough to take action to protect our nation’s young people from being harmed by these products,” wrote Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, in the report’s preface.

Efforts to prevent opioid overdoses may face a barrier in the rising price of naloxone, according to a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine. For example, a 2-dose package of Evzio, the auto-injector formulation of naloxone, cost $690 in 2014 but now sells for $4500. The authors state that legislative efforts to expand naloxone availability “should explicitly call on manufacturers to reduce the price of naloxone and increase transparency regarding their costs.”