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Senate releases bipartisan draft of emergency preparedness bill

Draft bill includes provisions on data sharing, state medical stockpiles, wastewater detection and research on treatments for viral pathogens

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pictured here, joined ranking committee member Bill Cassidy, R-La., in releasing draft language on a key pandemic preparedness bill.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pictured here, joined ranking committee member Bill Cassidy, R-La., in releasing draft language on a key pandemic preparedness bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Monday released a bipartisan draft of a bill to reauthorize a wide-ranging emergency preparedness law, although leaders in both parties are also seeking feedback on two outstanding legislative proposals. 

Both chambers are contending with a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize the law. Negotiations in the House Energy and Commerce Committee are apparently deadlocked over a rift about prescription drug shortages.

The Senate draft includes provisions to launch pilot programs for data sharing and state medical stockpiles, improve wastewater detection capabilities and boost research on treatments for viral pathogens, among other things.

But Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and ranking member Bill Cassidy, R-La., have yet to reach agreement on other elements they each released separately. 

Sanders is seeking feedback on language that would require drug companies to give the U.S. the lowest price offered to other G7 countries if they received support through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. 

The provision — known as a “most favored nations” clause — was previously proposed by former President Donald Trump, who never finalized it.

Cassidy is requesting feedback on a provision to reauthorize and expand the Food and Drug Administration’s priority review voucher program, which gives makers of medical countermeasures a priority voucher that allows them to skip the line for another drug application. The voucher can be redeemed later or sold to another company. Cassidy’s proposal would give drugmakers an additional, nontransferable voucher and include treatments for threats to the armed forces.

Sanders’ most favored nations proposal is likely to further strain negotiations on the bill. 

“Chairman Sanders is focused on substantially lowering the price of prescription drugs for the American people and that’s why he believes if their tax dollars go into developing a drug they shouldn’t pay the highest prices in the world for it,” spokesman Mike Casca said.

While Trump recently championed the idea again as part of his campaign platform, the idea lacks GOP support and Trump didn’t formally propose the move until his final days in office. The proposal was ultimately struck down over his administration’s attempt to skip proper notice-and-comment protocol.

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