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U.S. Senate Approves 21st Century Cures Act – President Obama Signs Medical Research Bill

Dec 08, 2016

The Senate voted 94-5 on Wednesday, December 7 to approve the 21st Century Cures Act.  The 21st Century Cures Act, a $6.3 billion landmark piece of legislation that will accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new cures and treatments and provide new funding for the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration, was signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday, December 13. The President, in his weekly address last Saturday, December 3, said "it (21st Century Cures) is an opportunity to save lives, and an opportunity we just can’t miss."

AAPM&R applauds Congress for passing this legislation and proudly recognizes the 21st Century Cures Act includes a key provision–Section 2040–enhancing the stature and visibility of medical rehabilitation research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The rehabilitation research provision in the House bill is virtually identical to Senate Bill S.800 the “Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Rehabilitation Research at the NIH Act,” that was approved unanimously by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in February 2016. 

Specifically, Section 2040 enhances coordination within NIH and with other agencies to update and streamline rehabilitation research priorities. It specifies that the research plan must be updated every 5 years; provides for an annual progress report; promotes the development of guidelines by NIH governing the co-funding of medical rehabilitation; and includes a definition of medical rehabilitation research. These provisions contain extensive input from NIH and the disability and rehabilitation community.   

AAPM&R President, Steve R. Geiringer, MD, stated, "This bipartisan piece of legislation is a significant step forward to advance rehabilitation science at NIH and improve the care provided to people with disabling injuries, illnesses, and conditions. We especially want to recognize our Congressional sponsors: Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO), Representative James Langevin (D-RI), and Representative Gregg Harper (R-MS)."   

The Academy has been a leader in advocacy efforts to bring S.800 and the advancement of rehabilitation science and research at NIH to this point. Academy efforts go back as far as 2012 when NIH published the “Blue Ribbon Panel on Medical Rehabilitation Research Report," which was the impetus for the original rehabilitation research legislation. The panel concluded that rehabilitation research is not thriving at NIH in part because the NIH had not updated its research plan for the conduct and support of medical rehabilitation research since 1993. An updated medical rehabilitation research plan was recently published in September 2016. 

AAPM&R, along with our members, stand with the millions of Americans with disabilities, illnesses, and chronic conditions that require medical rehabilitation to restore, maintain, or prevent deterioration of function. 

Learn more about this landmark legislation: