Congress Could Pass Bioterrorism Defense Bill By Memorial Day Recess
Anti-bioterrorism legislation could be approved and sent to President Bush before Congress adjourns for Memorial Day recess next week, lawmakers said yesterday, the AP/Arizona Republic reports. A House-Senate conference committee working to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of the bill has been "instructed to work diligently over the weekend" to reach a compromise, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said. Both bills would cost about $3 billion and would increase vaccine stockpiles, establish an HHS assistant secretary for emergency preparedness, impose "greater controls over dangerous agents" stored in U.S. laboratories and increase FDA funding to hire more food inspectors. However, the bills differ on how to protect the nation's drinking water supply. The House version would require individual water systems to assess their vulnerability to a bioterrorist attack and design emergency plans, while the Senate bill would require water systems to submit those contingency plans to the Environmental Protection Agency (AP/Arizona Republic, 5/17).
Meanwhile, Tauzin set a Monday deadline for negotiations on a bill, expected to be attached to the anti-bioterrorism legislation, that would reauthorize the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, which allows the FDA to charge drug makers a fee in exchange for an expedited review process. Lawmakers are still working to clarify language on "how the FDA can employ the user fee to ensure drug safety" and language to ensure that the agency does not "starve other functions," such as regulating drug advertising, to fund the expedited review process. In addition, lawmakers are still negotiating provisions allowing new user fees for veterinary drugs and medical devices. Tauzin said that a provision supported by House Democrats and a bipartisan group of senators to make law an FDA regulation that requires drug makers to test their products on children will not be included in the reauthorization legislation (Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 5/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.