The U.S. Senate unanimously approved reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 (PAHPA, S. 1855) on March 7, 2012. A similar House of Representatives bill passed in December 2011 and now the stage is set to work out differences in a conference committee between the Senate bill and the House version.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., lead sponsor of the Senate bill, said “We have come a long way in improving our nation’s ability to respond to a bioterror attack or public health emergency since Congress passed the original PAHPA law in 2006, but the 2009 H1N1 pandemic underscored the reality that more remains to be done.”
According to summaries from Burr’s office, the bill includes:
-Reauthorization of federal programs that support state, local, and hospital emergency preparedness
-$2.8 billion for Project BioShield and related medical countermeasures from 2014-2018
-Increases the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s (BARDA) focus on developing innovative biodefense tools
-Enhancements to the Strategic National Stockpile of drugs and medical supplies
-Enabling the FDA to further developing regulatory science tools to advance the review and approval of medical countermeasures
-Targeted enhancements to the National Disaster Medical System, the Medical Reserve Corps, the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals
-Provisions requiring consideration of the needs of at-risk individuals in emergency preparedness
Sen. Burr went on to say, “I am pleased that this bill will strengthen our existing medical and public health preparedness and response programs based on the lessons we have learned in recent years, including ensuring that the FDA has the tools it needs to advance the medical countermeasures necessary to respond to modern day threats.”
Preceding the Senate vote the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) gathered congressional staff, government officials, biosecurity organizations, and key stakeholders to discuss the magnitude of reauthorizing PAHPA.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Richard Hatchett, Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Director for Strategic Sciences, BARDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), said “2011 was a banner year for BARDA.” He stressed that “funding advanced research and manufacturing is an important statement to industry [and is] crucial to the country’s biodefense MCM program.”
Also speaking, Dr. Philip K. Russell, Former Senior Advisor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness, said “it is no longer true that technical difficulty prevents terrorists from using biology to attack.”