White House Requests More Than $6B To Combat Ebola
On Wednesday, the Obama administration formally requested that Congress approve more than $6 billion in emergency funding to fight the spread of the Ebola virus, the New York Times reports (Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times, 11/5).
Emergency funds would not be subject to the spending caps for fiscal year 2015 created by Congress as part of the 2013 budget debate, according to Politico (Rogers, Politico, 11/5).
The request is in addition to the $88 million in funding approved by Congress in September to combat Ebola and the $750 million in funds that Congress authorized the Department of Defense to shift to help pay for efforts to stop the virus' spread in West Africa (Shabad, The Hill, 11/5).
Details of Funding Request
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), President Obama wrote that the money would help "to contain and end the outbreak at its source in Africa, enhance domestic preparedness, speed the procurement and testing of vaccines and therapeutics and accelerate global capability to prevent the spread of future infectious diseases" (Achenbach, Washington Post, 11/5).
In a separate letter, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan wrote, "Without emergency funding, agencies will not have sufficient resources to adequately address the Ebola epidemic" (The Hill, 11/5).
The administration requested $4.6 billion in funding to be used immediately to respond to the virus. Specifically:
- $2.43 billion would be allocated to HHS, including funding for CDC;
- $1.98 billion would be allocated to the U.S. Agency for International Development;
- $127 million would be allocated to the Department of State to assist with supporting medical efforts abroad and potentially evacuating workers (Washington Post, 11/5); and
- $112 million would be allocated to DOD's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for technology development efforts to serve as a stopgap until a vaccine has been developed (Zengerle/Cowan, Reuters, 11/5).
In addition, some of the funds would go toward creating 50 Ebola treatment centers across the U.S., purchasing protective equipment for medical workers and enhancing airport and border screening for Ebola, according to the Post (Washington Post, 11/5).
The request also asks for $1.54 billion to go toward a contingency fund, which would be divided between the Department of State, HHS and USAID.
According to Reuters, the funding request is set to be taken up by the Senate and House Appropriations committees as part of their considerations of a $1 trillion spending measure (Reuters, 11/5).
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to hold a hearing during which the administration is expected to further explain the request, according to Politico (Politico, 11/5). HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are both expected to testify (The Hill, 11/5).
Boehner spokesperson Kevin Smith said, "The [House] Appropriations Committee will review the request," adding that Boehner's office would "continue to work with our members and the administration to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the public from a deadly disease" (Washington Post, 11/5).
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) commended the Obama administration's funding request (Politico, 11/5).
FDA Announces Plan To Speed Development of Ebola Treatment
In related news, federal officials on Wednesday unveiled a plan to test multiple Ebola treatments simultaneously in one study, in the hopes of quickly determining what effectively treats the disease, the AP/Miami Herald reports.
FDA officials said individuals involved in the study would receive supportive care and either take one of several drugs to treat Ebola or be placed in a placebo group. While researchers typically wait until a particular volume of patients has received a drug to evaluate the results, researchers will instead analyze the results as they are available by comparing each individual taking Ebola treatment drugs with an individual in the comparison group, according to the AP/Herald.
Edward Cox, director of FDA's Office of Antimicrobial Products, said that the study design would "allow a win[ning Ebola treatment] to be declared very early."
Luciana Borio, who heads FDA's Ebola response, called the study design, which began in cancer research, a "novel" approach for the agency, but said that it was necessary "to learn what helps and hurts" patients and to accelerate treatment for the virus.
Cox said that FDA could not say which drugs were being considered for use in the study but that plans for the study likely would be fully developed after a meeting with several companies next week (Marchione, AP/Miami Herald, 11/5).
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