Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to introduce a bill to speed the development of treatments and vaccines for Ebola.
The bipartisan 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 growing Ebola epidemic in West Africa requires our attention," Bennet said. "This bill will encourage Colorado's innovative bioscience community to continue their work on treatments to combat the spread of this disease. With an increased focus on fighting Ebola, medical personnel will be able to reverse the spread in Africa and ensure outbreaks don't occur elsewhere."
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.
The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Robert Casey (D-PA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Al Franken (D-MN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
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.