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Senate Backs Disaster Preparedness Bill

Mar 18, 2013

According to the Congressional Quarterly News, the Senate recently advanced a measure to extend several medical-disaster-preparation programs. The bill (HR 307), passed by unanimous consent, would reauthorize a set of programs created almost a decade ago under the Project BioShield Act (PL 108-276) and the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PL 109-417). The legislation would reauthorize the National Disaster Medical System, which helps manage the government’s medical response in emergencies and disasters.

It also would extend the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, which provides grants to state and local health departments to aid in the response to public health hazards. Before advancing the bill earlier this month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee adopted an amendment that would reauthorize both programs through fiscal 2018, as opposed to 2017, at current spending levels: $53 million annually for the National Disaster Medical Program and $642 million annually for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement. The amendment also would make technical changes.

 

The legislation would allow the Food and Drug Administration to collect and analyze information about the safety and effectiveness of products used under the emergency authority. In addition, the FDA would be permitted to use medical countermeasures under emergency circumstances even if they are not yet approved by the agency. Because the measure was amended by the Senate committee, the bill now heads back to the House for final passage.