Senate Unanimously Approves Bioterrorism Preparedness Legislation
The Senate yesterday unanimously approved a $4.6 billion
bill (S 1715) to strengthen the nation's preparedness against a bioterrorist attack, the Washington Times reports (Dinan, Washington Times, 5/24). The House approved the measure (HR 3448) Wednesday, and the bill now moves to President Bush, who is expected to sign it when he returns from his trip to Europe (AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/24). House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise on the legislation on Tuesday (California Healthline, 5/22). Under the legislation, states and localities would receive $1.5 billion in grants to improve the public health system's ability to respond to a bioterrorist attack. The measure also would strengthen protections of the U.S. food and water supply, increase the nation's stockpile of vaccines and medications and put stronger controls on laboratories and universities that "possess dangerous pathogens." In addition, the legislation would create a national database to track such pathogens and would provide the CDC with $300 million to upgrade its equipment and laboratories (California Healthline, 5/23). The legislation also includes a measure that would reauthorize for five years the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, under which drug makers pay the FDA a fee in exchange for an expedited review of a drug. While the bioterrorism measure passed the Senate with bipartisan support, some senators "regretted" that not all of the bill's original provisions were included in its final language, CongressDaily/AM reports. For example, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) wanted to include an anti-trust exemption for vaccine manufacturers to allow them to discuss drug supplies and future production needs with the government (CongressDaily/AM, 5/24). Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), however, praised the bill, saying, "This bill will take away one of the most formidable weapons in the terrorist arsenal -- our own vulnerability" (Washington Times, 5/24).