In a rare show of bipartisan support, the Senate voted to approve a bill to establish a committee to study and recommend ways to make essential medicines cheaper and more widely available.
The bill was co-sponsored by Sens.
Joe Manchin (D-W.
Va.), Jon Tester (D) and Cory Booker (D).
It will now head to the House, where the legislation is also expected to face opposition.
The bipartisan legislation would create a three-member panel that would work with the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies to identify the best ways to develop cheaper and easier-to-use medicines.
The panel would be led by a physician and would be chaired by a licensed physician and other medical experts.
They would also be experts on critical care, infectious disease, chronic illness and mental health.
The committee would be comprised of a physician, two health care experts, a nurse practitioner, an osteopath, a pharmacist, a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
The panel would make recommendations to the President, Congress and the Federal Trade Commission.
It would also include the potential of establishing a national registry of medicines and devices, to track the effectiveness of medicines.
It was a major achievement for President Barack Obama and the Democrats.
It was supported by the drug industry, which has long been critical of the need to create a national health insurance program.
Republicans have criticized the plan for giving drug makers and manufacturers’ representatives too much influence over the process of making medical devices.
It also has been criticized by advocates for consumers, such as those who use them, who have said that it will leave many Americans without access to the drugs and devices that they need to live healthy and productive lives.
The House passed the legislation by a vote of 231 to 209.