Starting with his service on the California State Assembly’s Health Committee, Rep. Waxman has been a leader on health issues since 1969. In Congress, Waxman has sponsored a long list of health bills that have been enacted into law, including the Ryan White AIDS Care Act, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act (also known as the Hatch-Waxman Act), the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act, the Safe Medical Devices Act, and the Orphan Drug Act.
See below for additional topics.
High prescription drug prices place a heavy burden on consumers, particularly older Americans and families who lack health insurance. Rep. Waxman has been a leading advocate for ensuring patients have affordable access to the drugs they need by fostering competition in the pharmaceutical industry. The Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984 is credited with creating the generic drug industry, which has saved patients billions of dollars and dramatically improved their access to drugs. Rep. Waxman’s current health care reform efforts aim to build on Hatch-Waxman and expand the development and availability of low-cost prescription drugs to all Americans.
Prior to 1983, people afflicted with rare diseases had little hope that pharmaceutical treatments and cures would be developed. Although many potential treatments were waiting in laboratories, drug companies were not developing them because the small population in need of the treatments failed to provide an adequate market. Rep. Waxman was the principal author of the original Orphan Drug Act, which drastically improved this situation. Originally enacted in 1983, the Orphan Drug Act provides novel market and tax incentives to companies willing to develop drugs for small patient populations. Since 1983, Rep. Waxman has written and helped enact a series of laws that have made significant improvements to the original legislation.
Click here to learn more about Rep. Waxman's work on the Orphan Drug Act
Drug and Medical Device Safety
Rep. Waxman has led the charge to enact laws that reform and improve the practices of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency responsible for the safety of food and medical products. He was the primary sponsor of the Safe Medical Devices Act of 1990 and has provided vigorous oversight of the FDA throughout his career to ensure that it meets congressional mandates to assure the safety of drugs and medical devices marketed to consumers.
Despite enjoying one of the safest food supplies in the world, Americans remain vulnerable to harmful contaminants, particularly because the United States is importing food from abroad at unprecedented levels. From requiring labels on food products to keeping dangerous chemicals like pesticides out of our food supply chain, Rep. Waxman has pushed for the strongest consumer protections to ensure food safety and the public’s right-to-know of dangerous contaminants in the food supply.
For nearly twenty years until 1996, Congress debated how to reform our nation's pesticide laws. Rep. Waxman led the fight in the House for tougher regulations and, as Chairman of the Health and the Environment Subcommittee, sponsored reform legislation and chaired hearings on this issue throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
After years of legislative stalemate, legislation was finally approved in 1996. Many of the most important provisions of "The Food Quality Protection Act" (Public Law 104-170) are the result of a remarkable compromise forged by Rep. Waxman, Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley, and Rep. John Dingell. That compromise has been called the "most important law you never heard of," and establishes a comprehensive regulatory system for the food we eat.
Click here to view more information about Rep. Waxman's work on Right-to-Know legislation.
Click here to view more information about Rep. Waxman's work on the Food Quality Protection Act.
Defeating the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be one of Rep. Waxman's highest health priorities. In 1982, Rep. Waxman convened the first of over 30 hearings in the Health and Environment Subcommittee to raise public awareness and secure government funding in the fight against AIDS. Since then, Rep. Waxman has written and helped enact federal legislation to fund the search for a cure and bring meaningful relief to people with HIV/AIDS. As Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he continues to champion federal investments into HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and research.
With tens of millions uninsured and the cost of health care consuming an increasingly large part of the economy and of government spending, Rep. Waxman continues to play a leading role in the urgent effort to reform our health care system. Throughout his career in Congress, Rep. Waxman has worked to expand health care coverage and improve quality for the most vulnerable members of our society -- children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and low-income families. As Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Waxman is working to make quality, affordable health care available to all Americans.
Nursing Home Reform
Rep. Waxman has been a champion of nursing home reform for more than two decades. He believes that our most vulnerable citizens -- the elderly and the disabled who live in nursing homes -- deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion and are entitled to high quality health care. Rep. Waxman has worked to enrich the quality of life for nursing home residents, to strengthen nursing home regulations, to protect against the impoverishment of spouses of nursing home residents, and to increase access to long-term care for all seniors.
Click here to learn more about Rep. Waxman's work on nursing home reform.
Rep. Waxman has fought throughout his career in Congress to ensure the highest safety standards for products in the marketplace. He has led congressional oversight efforts on consumer products ranging from tobacco and dietary supplements to lead-contaminated children’s toys and toxic FEMA trailers.
As a leading advocate of women's health research and reproductive rights, Rep. Waxman has worked to give women better access to reproductive care services. In addition to pushing for increased funding for family planning and reproductive health services for low-income women who depend on Medicaid, he has opposed every effort in Congress to restrict a woman’s right to choose a safe abortion.
Rep. Waxman has been the leading spokesperson on Capitol Hill for tobacco regulation since early in his congressional career. In the 1980s, he conducted dozens of hearings on the hazards of smoking and the tobacco industry’s marketing practices. These hearings contributed to a vast change in public opinion about smoking and led to the first reform of tobacco warning labels.
Because tobacco still kills over 400,000 Americans every year and more than 1,000 children start smoking every day, Rep. Waxman continues his fight against the tobacco industry's practices of deceit and misrepresentation. To halt the manipulation of children into using this dangerous product, he has authored the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to impose meaningful and long overdue oversight on the manufacture, promotion and sale of tobacco.
From 1979 to 1994, Rep. Waxman served as Chairman of the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. To help focus public attention on the dangers of tobacco, Rep. Waxman invited movie stars and celebrities to appear before his committee. These hearings contributed to the vast change in public opinion about smoking. Other hearings by the Subcommittee exposed the secret activities of the tobacco industry, both through the testimony of industry insiders and internal tobacco company documents.
Click here to learn more information about the landmark hearings and legislation introduced during this time.