The US Senate plans to offer new incentives to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to develop more vaccines, drugs, and countermeasures against a range of pathogens. Prominent among the biodefense measures before Congress is the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act (S. 1873). The bill, authored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), would establish a new government agency – the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency – to fund and coordinate government R&D efforts into countermeasures for bioterrorism and natural outbreaks. The bill would offer liability protection for vaccine manufacturers and a 10-year marketing exclusivity for companies producing countermeasures, during which time competitors could not produce generic substitutes.

While the brand-name drug and biotech industries and lawmakers from both parties support the bill, some generic drug manufacturers, consumer groups, and healthcare insurers say the exclusivity provisions will increase prescription drug costs. Some Democrats believe the bill provides too...

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