Bennet, HELP Committee Pass Bill to Speed Development of Ebola Treatments

Bipartisan Bill Moves Through Key Senate Markup

Washington D.C. -- Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed a bill cosponsored by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to speed the development of treatments and vaccines for Ebola. The bipartisan measure was led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the HELP Committee, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Bennet is also a member of the HELP Committee.

The bill would add Ebola to FDA's priority review "voucher" program, a program at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designed to encourage the development of new drugs for neglected tropical diseases. Currently Ebola is not listed as a qualifying tropical disease.

"The Ebola epidemic is not just a West African problem. It is a global issue that requires our focus and attention," Bennet said. "By prioritizing the development of Ebola treatments to stop the spread of the disease we can harness the innovative minds of the nation's medical community and help reduce illness and death."

The bill would add Ebola to FDA's priority review voucher program, which Congress first authorized in 2007 to promote the development of new treatments and vaccines for neglected tropical diseases. Under the program, a developer of a treatment for a qualifying tropical disease receives a voucher for FDA priority review to be used with a second product of its choice, or this voucher can be sold.

However, Ebola is not considered a qualifying disease under current law, so developers of Ebola treatments and vaccines currently do not qualify for the program. This bill would change that and immediately add Ebola to the program - a step that should be taken given that we need our full arsenal of tools at work.

Last month, Bennet wrote a letter to the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services requesting information on what steps are being taken by these agencies and what Coloradans can do to ensure the state is adequately prepared for any possible scenario that may arise.