Senate approves bill to speed search for Zika-virus cure
Four new cases reported in Florida, bringing total to 66
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four new cases of the Zika virus were reported in Florida yesterday: three in Alachua and one in Brevard. To help curb the spread of the virus, late last night the Senate approved a measure to speed up the development of vaccines and treatments for the disease.
The legislation, introduced by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and others, would add the Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration’s Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program. 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.
“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.”
Once awarded, a fast-track voucher can either be used to cut the time it takes the FDA to approve another drug that the company has developed from 10 months to 6, or be sold to another drug maker. In 2014, a fast-track voucher reportedly sold for $125 million.
Last month, Nelson was one of the first lawmakers to call on President Obama to appoint a Zika czar to coordinate the federal government’s overall response to the virus. At that time, Florida had nine reported cases of the virus. Today, it has 66.
The legislation passed late yesterday in the Senate now heads to the House for consideration.