House This Week Likely To Pass $5.6 Billion Bill To Fund Project BioShield
The House is expected Wednesday to pass a bill (S 15) that would provide $5.6 billion over 10 years to fund Project BioShield, a program that encourages the development of medications and vaccines to treat U.S. residents in the event of a biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical attack, CQ Today reports (Schuler, CQ Today, 7/9). President Bush first announced Project BioShield in his 2003 State of the Union address. The legislation would authorize funds to encourage pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to work with NIH to develop anecdotes, vaccines and other products to treat and protect against anthrax, smallpox, botulism, plague, Ebola virus and radiation from "dirty bombs." Under the bill, the federal government would guarantee the purchase of such products, which likely would not have a high demand in the private market, to provide companies with incentive to invest in their research and development. The legislation also would allow for the emergency distribution of such products before they received FDA approval. In such cases, the government would inform individuals about the risks and benefits of unapproved products, after which time individuals could refuse treatment. The bill would provide $890 million in funds for Project BioShield this year and as much as $3.4 billion over the next four years (American Health Line, 5/20). The House passed its version of the bill in July 2003, but the Senate's legislation was delayed for nearly a year; the Senate ultimately passed the bill in May. The House is expected to pass the Senate bill Wednesday, in part because both chambers want to avoid a conference on the legislation, CQ Today reports. Bush "is certain to sign the measure into law," according to CQ Today (CQ Today, 7/9).
With Bush expected to sign the bill creating Project BioShield, the United States "will shortly unleash the greatest force in world history: American ingenuity," Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. Although the United States "has made some progress in preparing for possible germ warfare on our own soil," the nation is "not ready to combat a major bioterror assault at this time and our enemies know it. Worse, they're looking for ways to exploit our weaknesses," Cox writes. Project BioShield could "chang[e] that" by providing private-sector scientists, physicians and researchers with "proper incentives" to develop a national supply of medications and vaccines for use in the event of a biological attack, according to Cox. He adds, "By approving Project BioShield, Congress is saying: 'Let the race to find lifesaving countermeasures begin" (Cox, Washington Times, 7/12).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.