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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) today applauded the Senate Republican leadership for putting biopreparedness at the top of its health care agenda. IDSA pledged to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to enact comprehensive legislation to spur the development of new medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics for infectious diseases, particularly new antibiotics that target drug-resistant infections.
On Jan. 24, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD, (R-Tenn.) and others introduced a broad homeland security bill (S. 3) that would extend patents for biodefense and infectious disease products, strengthen intellectual property rights, create tax incentives, reform liability laws, and include other provisions intended to eliminate barriers that make the infectious disease market unattractive to industry. The bill is aimed at preparing the nation for pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious threats.
"It's a simple fact; infectious disease physicians are running out of the tools we desperately need to treat patients. At the same time that we are seeing an increase in drug-resistant infections, we are also seeing a decline in the development of new antibiotics to treat such infections," said IDSA president Walter E. Stamm, MD.
In July 2004, IDSA released a report, Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As Antibiotic Discovery Stagnates, A Public Health Crisis Brews, which highlighted the problem and outlined possible incentives to spur research and development of new anti-infectives.
"The market for antibiotics, vaccines, and other anti-infectives will never be as attractive as the market for drugs that treat chronic conditions or lifestyle issues. That's why we need innovative public policy in this area," said John G. Bartlett, MD, chair of IDSA's Task Force on Antimicrobial Availability.
"We are encouraged to see that leaders in Congress have recognized how urgent this problem is, and we stand ready and willing to work with them to ensure that the scope of the bill and its incentives sufficiently cover infectious diseases, particularly antibiotics research and development and pandemic influenza preparedness," said Stamm.
Co-sponsors of S. 3 include Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), George Allen (R-Va.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). The bill is similar in purpose to legislation that Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have been working on and soon plan to introduce. The bill has been dubbed "Bioshield II" because it would expand on "The Project Bioshield Act" ("Bioshield I"), which President Bush signed into law July 21, 2004.
"We are heartened that Sen. Gregg's bill applies to other products for infectious diseases, not just biodefense products," Bartlett said. "We have been calling for this expansion ever since Congress began debating Bioshield I. IDSA supports many of the concepts outlined in S. 3, and we look forward to working with members of Congress on the specific details of the legislation as it moves through Congress."
IDSA believes that this legislation, which favorably impacts both patient and public health, is one area where bipartisanship can be achieved this year. The Society pledged to work with key Senate and House leaders on both sides of the aisle to enact the legislation. Key Senate leaders include the co-sponsors of S. 3; Sens. Lieberman and Hatch; Sens. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Arlen Specter (R-PA), all of whom chair Senate committees with jurisdiction over the bill; and Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Democratic ranking members of the same three committees.