The array of federal biodefense programs created in the years after 9/11 is on track to remain in place through federal fiscal year 2018. There will also be some new provisions that officials hope will encourage more development of medical countermeasures that can be stockpiled for emergency use.
Earlier this month a House of Representatives bill (HR 2405) to reauthorize those biodefense programs for the next five federal fiscal years cleared the chamber on a simple voice vote. President Barack Obama’s administration has declared its support for HR 2405, adding that it “looks forward to working with Congress to improve and strengthen the bill, for example by authorizing a strategic investor for medical countermeasures, as its consideration shifts to the Senate.”
The Senate version of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) Reauthorization of 2011 (S.1855), introduced last month, was the subject of a closed-door “executive session” on December 14 by the chamber’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, on its way to an expected approval by that chamber.
Among the bill’s most important provisions is renewing the federal Special Reserve Fund (SRF) to purchase medical countermeasures against such diseases as anthrax, botulism, and smallpox for the Strategic National Stockpile. The SRF was created through the Project BioShield Act of 2004, one of two bills that are being renewed through the new legislation. The other is the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006, which established the Biodefense Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“The first legislation made these programs happen, and now the reauthorization is an issue of how to make them more operational and functional,” Dara Alpert Lieberman, senior government relations manager for the public health defense group Trust for America’s Health, told GEN.