Senate inches toward passing drug bill

The Senate took one step closer to passing a compound drug bill by voting Thursday to proceed to debating the measure.

The Drug Quality and Security Act, H.R. 3204, would make it easier to trace drugs throughout the U.S. supply chain. The Senate voice-voted the motion to proceed and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a motion to end debate on the bill.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has been filibustering the bill in an effort to get an amendment vote on his Show Your Exemption Act, which would force members of Congress to disclose which of their staff they have exempted from enrolling in insurance through the ObamaCare health exchange.

“That information should absolutely be made public,” Vitter said Wednesday. “Whatever we think about the underlying issues … to me it’s a no brainer that there should be full disclosure about how each office chooses to handle the situation.”

Reid criticized Vitter for delaying the bill, saying the Senate wouldn’t be able to complete work on it until Sunday if Vitter continues to insist on running out the procedural clock.

“Unless the entire U.S. Senate bends to that one senator’s wish … he will force this body to jump through hoops … to finish this crucial drug safety bill,” Reid said Thursday. “I can’t let one senator dictate what goes on here in the Senate.”

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) introduced the bill after recent fungal meningitis outbreaks caused by unsanitary conditions at a compounding drug factory — 64 people died. The House passed the measure in September.

The bill broadens the authority of the Food and Drug Administration to better regulate the manufacturing of compound drugs to ensure they are safer. It would also require manufacturers of compounded drugs to better report which outsourcing facilities are used.

The Senate is expected to take up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) next. Vitter said he’d be willing to let H.R. 3204 move forward without delay if Reid guarantees him a vote on his amendment during the consideration of NDAA.