Senate starts work on compound drug bill

The Senate voted 97-1 Tuesday to advance a drug bill aimed at creating a safer compound drug supply.

The Senate will spend part of the week debating a bill that would make it easier to trace drugs throughout the supply chain. 

The procedural vote to end debate on the motion to proceed happened more than one month after the House passed the Drug Quality and Security Act in response to recent fungal meningitis outbreaks caused by unsanitary conditions at a compounding drug factory.

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Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) introduced H.R. 3204, which would require manufacturers of compounded drugs to better report outsourcing facilities and incentivize direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist in a registered outsourcing facility to ensure safety requirements are met. The bill also prohibits the resale of a compounded drug labeled “not for resale,” or the intentional falsification of a prescription for a compounded drug.

“The House passed this bill on Sept. 28 and now it’s our turn to do our part,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said ahead of the vote.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who was the only "no" vote, has vowed to offer his bill, the Show Your Exemption Act, as an amendment. Vitter’s bill would force members of Congress to disclose which of their staff they have exempted from enrolling in the healthcare exchange.

“Shouldn’t the public have a right to know?,” Vitter said on the floor last week. “Getting a vote on that proposal will be a key priority of mine, particularly when we consider the drug compounding bill in the near future.”

Vitter said if he didn’t get a vote on his bill as an amendment to H.R. 3204, he would push again when the Senate considers the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) later this month.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would have been able to pass this “life saving” legislation a month ago if it weren’t for Republican obstruction. He said we wanted to quickly complete work on the drug bill so the Senate wouldn’t have to work through the weekend to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before Thanksgiving.

“We must finish this legislation quickly, so we can wrap up consideration of the crucial Defense Authorization bill before Thanksgiving,” Reid said. “I put all Senators on notice: we will do whatever it takes to accomplish that, even if it means working weekends.”