The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a Health Subcommittee markup on Tuesday, discussing the Strengthening Public Health Emergency Response Act, H.R. 3299.
“There is a clear role for the federal government to play in creating medical countermeasures and contributing to our nation’s preparedness,” Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX) said, while Chairman of the Subcommittee Joe Pitts (R-PA) warned that the U.S. faces threat from Ebola and anthrax, “as well as biological terrorist threats.”
The legislation, authored by U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), would streamline decision-making procedures and incentivize investment in vaccines and treatments for dangerous and deadly pathogens and diseases.
“Our national readiness and biodefense capabilities are underprepared,” Brooks said in May during a subcommittee examination of the legislation. “The threat to our national security posed by dangerous and deadly diseases and pathogens, like Ebola or anthrax, is constant and cannot be under estimated. The legislation we considered today is the result of more than a year of bipartisan work at this committee, and I look forward to further consideration of this proposal to better protect the health and safety of the American people.”
American emergency preparedness would be increased under the legislation through an increase in administrative efficiency within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness (ASPR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The legislation provides companies with incentives as a means of spurring the development of medical countermeasures for public health emergencies and biochemical attacks. The Priority Review Voucher program would also be expanded to include material threats identified by the Department of Homeland Security.
Additionally, the original contracting authority provided to Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) would be reinstated to allow for the faster development of critical medical countermeasures.
The legislation “modernizes our biodefense systems to ensure we are well-equipped for current and emerging biothreats,” Pitts said. “BARDA was created with the understanding that most medical counter-measures that are needed do not exist, and there is no private-sector demand for such products.
“By partnering with the private sector, BARDA can reduce the development risk, thereby increasing preparedness…BARDA increases accountability of preparedness spending…(and) also increases our overall preparedness by creating new incentives for creation of medical countermeasures.
“Such improvements will go a long way to improving our preparedness and streamlining the process of creating medical countermeasures.”