U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a $6.3 billion bill to fund cancer research, drug addiction recovery and mental health services, in what likely will be his final law signed as president.
“Like many of you, I believe the United States of America should be the country that ends cancer once and for all. We are already closer than a lot of folks think,” Obama said.
In an emotional ceremony, the president signed the 21st Century Cures Act in a White House auditorium. He made a point of highlighting the work of Vice President Joe Biden.
The section of the bill allocating $1.8 billion in cancer research funding was named for Biden’s son, Beau, whose death from brain cancer in 2015 inspired what the White House called its “Cancer Moonshot.”
“This bill will literally save lives,” said a somber Biden. “Just its mere signing, Mr. President, as you know better than I, gives millions of Americans hope.”
Also on stage was David Grubb, a former West Virginia state senator, and his wife, Kate, whose daughter died of an opioid overdose in March 2016.
The bill also authorized seven years of funding for other health-related initiatives: $1.5 billion for a brain research initiative, $1.4 billion for precision medicine and $1 billion for substance abuse treatment targeting heroin and opioid addiction.
“So, this is a good day. It is a bittersweet day. I think it is important to acknowledge that it’s not easy for the Grubbs to come up here and talk about Jesse. It is not easy for Joe and Jill (Biden), I know, to talk about Beau,” Obama said.
“It’s not always easy to remember, but being able to honor those we have lost in this way, and to know that we may be able to prevent other families from feeling that same loss, that makes it a good day and I am confident that it will lead to better years and better lives for millions of Americans, the work that you have done,” he added.
Another measure of the bill streamlines the approval process for drugs and medical implements by the Food and Drug Administration, which some patient safety groups say is dangerous.