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Markey throws his support behind the medical bill opposed by Warren

Senator Ed Markey at a Boston event in September.
Senator Ed Markey at a Boston event in September.(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

Senator Edward Markey on Monday threw his support behind the latest version of the 21st Century Cures Act, federal legislation that includes $1 billion for opioid recovery and treatment programs.

The bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House last week, also promotes cancer research and pledges close to $5 billion for medical research over the next decade.

Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, has pushed for the opioid funding in the bill, saying communities are being “devastated by opioid addiction and overdoses across the country.”

“The funding in this legislation will be the help they need to save lives right now,” Markey said in a statement. “This funding will provide hope to the individuals and families suffering with addiction in Massachusetts who cannot find a bed for detox or a provider for long-term treatment and recovery.”

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Markey added that the legislation also “includes medical and research funding that is the lifeblood of Massachusetts’s innovation economy, supporting the development of the breakthroughs and cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other deadly diseases.”

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker came out in support of the medical innovation bill as an effort to “expedite new ways to treat disease and addiction — including the opioid and heroin crisis that has devastated every corner of our state.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren has criticized the legislation, contending it has been hijacked by the pharmaceutical industry and would be costly for consumers.

“Does the Senate work for big pharma that hires the lobbyists and makes the campaign contributions, or does the Senate work for American people who actually sent us here?” she asked, speaking on the Senate floor on Nov. 28.

Markey has played an active role in endorsing the expansion of addiction treatment programs. Last month, he wrote a letter with three other Senate Democrats asking the Senate’s majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and minority leader, Harry Reid, to “help quell this epidemic” by approving the legislation.

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The senators also pledged to help foster bipartisan support for increased funding for the treatment and prevention of opioid abuse.

“As the end of the year fast approaches, it is past time for Republicans and Democrats to come together to provide emergency funding and increase investments in prevention and treatment services for opioid use, misuse, and use disorders,” the senators wrote. “Until we do, our job is not done and our communities will continue to hurt.”

The latest version of the sweeping bill was released over the Thanksgiving weekend. Giselle Barry, an aide to Markey, said last week the senator was still reviewing it and had not made a decision yet on whether to support it.

But the changes in the latest version were not enough for Warren, who had written part of the bill but has since turned against it.

Addiction treatment advocates started a campaign Wednesday in hopes of persuading Warren to reverse her stance, encouraging the public to call her office and say that “Massachusetts desperately needs” the funds to fight the opioid epidemic.

On Monday, Markey said he still has concerns about the approval and oversight procedures laid out in the legislation. He pledged to monitor its implementation and ensure that protections for patients and consumers are put in place at the US Food and Drug Administration.

“I am pleased that Congress is finally responding with financial resources to the greatest public health crisis facing our nation,” he wrote.

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Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.