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Sunday, February 5th, 2023

End of year government funding bill included public health measures from PREVENT Pandemics Act

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As lawmakers process the passage of the government funding bill at the tail end of December 2022, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that major portions of the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act) were included in its pages.

Collins served as a lead on the PREVENT Pandemics Act and put forth or co-led many of the affiliated provisions that made it into law. Among those that will benefit public health are measures to increase domestic manufacturing of generic medicines through a new feasibility study on rewarding domestic production through federal health care programs, increase domestic manufacturing of medical supplies through domestic preference requirements on state-based medical supply stockpiles, and development of a leadership exchange pilot program for two-year fellowships, details or other placements with federal agencies or state or local health departments to net HHS leadership field experience and grow expertise.

“The past three years have clearly demonstrated that we must work to ensure that our country is better prepared for future epidemics and pandemics,” Collins said. “This bipartisan legislation represents an important step forward that will address a number of shortcomings that were exposed during our nations’ response to COVID-19. It will also strengthen our public health systems and better protect our communities.”

That bipartisanship term proved to be key. Other health provisions in the legislation were team products. Working alongside Collins, other bills were put forth by members such as U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM). Respectively, they brought to the table measures to expand the public health workforce through the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program, offer loan repayment for infectious diseases and emergency preparedness and response professionals through a workforce pilot program, extend the shelf of fleeting prescription drugs, strengthen oversight of foreign medical product manufacturers and increase federal support for behavioral health responses to disasters and emergencies.

The PREVENT Pandemics Act was sponsored by Health Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC). Ultimately, the omnibus that became law will benefit many areas linked to health across numerous fields, and while much of the above focused on the workforce and supply, provisions also included authorizations for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to advance breakthroughs in health and medicine through new research projects.