WASHINGTON — The House easily approved a sweeping biomedical bill Wednesday that would help drug and medical device companies win swifter government approval of their products, boost disease research and drug-abuse spending and revamp federal mental health programs.

The compromise, which envisions spending $6.3 billion over the next decade, was condemned by consumer groups and some Democrats as a present to drugmakers that promised only paltry spending increases for underfunded federal programs.

But their objections were overwhelmed by an alliance among Republicans, many Democrats and the White House for a 996-page measure that bore wins for both parties. The Senate’s expected final approval next week would mark an uncommon episode of cooperation between the GOP-run 114th Congress – which plans to adjourn next week – and President Obama in their dwindling days in office.

The vote was 392-26.

“We are on the cusp of something special, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how we treat disease,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and an author of the legislation.

Not everyone agreed.

Rep. Rose DeLauro, D-Conn., said that while the bill contained “noble goals that I share,” its relaxation of some standards for federal drug approvals was dangerous and “neglects the very people clinical trials are meant to help – that is the patients.”

No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said he was “totally underwhelmed” by the bill’s extra money, and said its cuts in a disease prevention fund created under Obama’s health care law to finance new medical research displayed “a warped sense of justice.”


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