A former senator urged his colleagues to perfect a massive healthcare bill that passed the House overwhelmingly.

Tom Coburn asked his former colleagues during a Senate panel hearing Tuesday to refine and perfect the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill the House approved last week. Coburn, a former physician and cancer survivor, served in the Senate from 2005 until his retirement last year.

The bill intends to speed up drug and device approvals through improving the clinical trials process, provide exclusivity perks for pursuing drugs that treat certain diseases and boosts funding to the National Institutes of Health.

The legislation has a lot of "good ideas" but needs to do more in overhauling how the Food and Drug Administration approves products, Coburn said.

"The way we will approve new drugs in the future has got to change," he said during a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"Power will have to shift from centralized bureaucrats to empowered patients and physicians," he added in prepared remarks.

Coburn gave an example of the AIDS crisis, when activists demanded the agency approve more treatments and the FDA hurried along more drugs.

The FDA has made an effort to involve patients in the development process. It largely approved a regulatory guidance drafted by patient advocates that helps drug makers develop new treatments for the rare disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Coburn also called for more funding for the NIH. The House bill provides an additional $8.75 billion in new agency funding over five years.

The senator, who habitually highlighted wasteful spending programs, said he could find ways to double the agency's budget of $30 billion.

The Senate has planned to take up its own version of the Cures bill and hopes to get legislation out by the end of the year, according to a source within the chamber.