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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

With Zika cases popping up in Florida, legislation moving in Congress



The U.S. Senate passed legislation Thursday night to address the Zika virus, which continues to pop up in Florida.

The legislation "would add the Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration’s Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program," according to a release from Sen. Bill Nelson's office. "When a company develops an FDA-approved treatment for one of the diseases on the priority list, it receives a voucher to fast-track the approval process for another drug of its choice.  Adding the Zika virus to FDA’s priority list creates an incentive for drug makers to accelerate their search for a cure."

Four new cases of the virus were reported in Florida on Thursday. The bill was introduced by Sen. Al Franken and Nelson is among a handful of co-sponsors. It was approved by unanimous consent.

“We need to figure out a way to stop the spread of this virus sooner rather than later,” Nelson said. “This bill creates an incentive for drug makers to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.”

There is a similar bill in the House.

UPDATE: Doctors Without Borders faulted the legislation, saying it "did not fix major loopholes that make the PRV program for neglected diseases ripe for abuse by pharmaceutical companies. The vote means that any company that successfully registers a treatment or vaccine for the disease is one step closer to receiving a voucher that allows the company to accelerate the FDA review of a subsequent product. The bill must still be voted on by the U.S. House."

“When we faced the deadliest Ebola epidemic ever, Doctors Without Borders was trying to treat patients virtually empty-handed. Nearly two years later, the global health community is facing another epidemic, Zika, without safe and effective vaccines or treatments to help patients. Ebola should have taught us not just about the urgent need for research for neglected diseases, but also that people in affected communities must have affordable access to any new treatments or vaccines that are developed. By adding Zika to the list for which companies can receive a PRV without first ensuring that the program rewards true innovation and that the people most in need benefit from any scientific breakthrough, we are repeating our mistakes."

[Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2016 5:57pm]


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