LEGISLATION: Bio-Terror Legislation (2001), Bio-Terror Legislation (2002), Bio-Terror Legislation (2003), Bio-Terror Legislation (2004), Bio-Terror Legislation (2005), Bio-Terror Legislation (2010), Bio-Terror Legislation (2011), and Bio-Terror Legislation (2012).
Abstract: The Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005 (S. 1873), nicknamed "Bioshield Two" and sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), aims shorten the pharmaceutical development process for new vaccines and drugs in case of a pandemic, and to protect vaccine makers and the pharmaceutical industry from legal liability for vaccine injuries. The proposed bill would create a new federal agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), that would act "as the single point of authority" to promote advanced research and development of drugs and vaccines in response to bioterrorism and natural disease outbreaks, while shielding the agency from public Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. BARDA would be exempt from long-standing open records and meetings laws that apply to most government departments.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the bill, co-sponsored by Bill Frist (R-TN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Judd Gregg (R-NH), by voice vote, despite Democratic objections. Several other proposals have contained, in part, similar provisions (or protections) as those found in the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005.
The Bioshield Two bill would shift the main responsibility for developing bioterrorism countermeasures out of the Department of Homeland Security and into the new BARDA agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The proposed new agency would improve on Project BioShield, a barely two-year-old program also meant to encourage production of vaccines and drugs.
BARDA would receive a first-year budget of $1 billion. Other key aspects of the proposed legislation include:
2. Liability protections for drug makers that develop vaccines for biological weapons. The measure would make manufacturers, distibutors, health care providers, or administrators of security countermeasures immune from liability caused by a security countermeasure or any pandemic/epidemic product, by means of a limited antitrust exemption.
3. Establishment of a single agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, as the lead federal agency for the development of countermeasures against bioterrorism. The new agency would report directly to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, which would have sole authority to decide whether a manufacturer violated laws mandating drug safety.
4. Citizens would be banned from challenging such decisions in the civil court system. The agency would 'partner' with drug makers while placing information about such partnerships outside of public view.
5. Extension of some prescription drug patents.
6. Allow the Department of Health and Human Services to sign exclusive sales contracts with particular manufacturers for a particular product.
7. Forbid government purchases of generic versions of such new drugs or vaccines as well as public sales of the products for use as countermeasures.
8. Exempt countermeasures from certain federal cost oversight requirements.
Much of the support for the bill comes from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and its members. In the 2002 election cycle, PhRMA contributed $3,505,052 to politicians, with 95% going to Republicans. The top recipient in the Senate was the bill's sponsor, Senator Richard Burr, who received $288,684, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Senator Burr said the legislation "creates a true partnership" between the federal government, the pharmaceutical industry and academia to "walk the drug companies through the Valley of Death" in bringing a new vaccine or drug to market.
Exemptions from open records and meetings laws would streamline the development process, safeguard national security and protect the proprietary interests of drug companies, say Republican backers of the bill.
Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) said "Their plan will protect companies that make ineffective or harmful medicines, and because it does not include compensation for those injured by a vaccine or drug, it will discourage first responders and patients from taking medicines to counter a biological attack or disease outbreak (Wikipedia, 2012).
Title: HHS Budget Cuts $120 Million From Pandemic Preparation, Shifts Money To Rural Health Delivery
Date: December 14, 2005
Source: Homeland Security News Wire
Abstract: To overcome House objections to initial HHS budget proposal, money aimed to prepare for avian flu was shifted to other purposes, one hopes this is only temporary
Many of the measures aimed to confronting pandemics and bioterror attacks are within the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), so we should be interested in the battle taking place in Congress these days over the HHS budget. Conferees approved — for the second time — the fiscal 2006 Labor-HHS appropriations conference report two days ago, with Republicans on the panel expressing the hope that addressing the issue of rural health delivery to the tune of $180 million will win over GOP votes which joined all of the House Democrats to defeat the original measure. The rewritten measure added $90 million for rural health programs, and included $9 million for a rural health research center within the HHS.
To come up with the $180 million for rural health
care delivery, the new version of the bill cuts spending for flu
preparedness by $120 million and implementation of the new Medicare
prescription drug bill by $60 million. House members will soon take up
separate legislation to provide funding for a potential outbreak of
avian flu, a move now made necessary by the move of money from flu
preparedness to rural health. The panel called for $142.5 billion for HHS for fiscal 2006, compared with $143.5 billion during fiscal 2005 (Homeland Security News Wire, 2005).