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 BrooksEthics panel denied details on lawmakers accused of harassment Ethics panel asks for details of past harassment cases against serving lawmakers Pelosi amps up pressure on Conyers to resign 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 RyanGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year 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.