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Van Hollen measure to speed pediatric cancer drugs clears Congress

The Senate gave final approval Thursday to a measure backed by Sen. Chris Van Hollen that would speed approval of cancer drugs for children.

The bipartisan measure, approved by the House in July, was attached to legislation that will allow the Silver Spring-based Food and Drug Administration to continue to collect fees from pharmaceutical companies to pay for drug reviews.

The specific provision on pediatric cancer would update a 2003 law and require drug companies to test potential adult therapies for childhood cancers in more cases.

“No childhood should be interrupted by a struggle for survival, but cancer tragically puts far too many kids in Maryland and across the country in a battle for their lives,” Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat said in a statement. “The legislation will modernize drug development regulations to help build on the progress being made at institutions like the National Institutes of Health.”

The Senate passed the bill 94-1, with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont the only ‘no’ vote.

Other original sponsors of the legislation this year were Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner of Colorado as well Republican Marco Rubio of Florida.

“Pediatric cancer is a leading cause of death by disease among children and yet children do not have the same number of treatment options as adults,” Rubio said in a statement. “This bill will help fix that.”

President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign the legislation.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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