House approves bill to speed up Zika drugs

House approves bill to speed up Zika drugs
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The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to offer incentives to companies seeking cures for the Zika virus amid Congress’s growing battle over funding for the epidemic.

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The bipartisan legislation would add the Zika virus to a list of diseases that qualifies for a “priority review” voucher from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It passed the Senate last month.

"This is a significant incentive for private industry to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars and the many man hours it takes to produce a vaccine or treatment," Rep. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority Hillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid Press shuts out lawmakers to win congressional softball game MORE (R-Ind.), one of the bill's authors, said on the House floor.

The bill does not touch the federal funding fight over Zika, which has been bitterly partisan for weeks. It was approved by voice vote.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Ironworker and star of viral video wins Dem primary for Speaker Ryan's seat Live results: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut hold primaries MORE (R-Wis.) praised the FDA bill as a bipartisan effort to “aid the response” and "protect Americans" against Zika, as he and other GOP leaders remain staunchly opposed to adding more funding.

GOP leaders have for months resisted pressure from the Obama administration to approve his nearly $2 billion emergency funding request. Last week, federal health officials announced they would dip into its Ebola funding pool to shore up the response to Zika — a move previously dismissed by the administration.

This week, top officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have warned that Congress still needs to act because current funding levels are running dangerously low.

Ryan did not rule out further action on Zika.

“We will continue to monitor the government’s response, and work to protect the American people,” he said in his statement.