Medical countermeasure development should be priority, BARDA director says

WASHINGTON — Congress, the Obama administration and taxpayers need to accept that drugmakers are not going to pursue discovery and development of emergency medical countermeasures out of the kindness of their hearts and they must provide industry more incentives to maintain and sustain those products, according to the director of CBRN countermeasures at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Unfortunately, Gerald Kovacs said Dec. 4, his agency still struggles to convince lawmakers and others that chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear countermeasures remain a priority for U.S. national security.

BARDA manages Project BioShield, created by Congress in 2004 to accelerate research and development of medical countermeasures. Congress established a special reserve fund of $5.6 billion to be appropriated for BioShield from 2004 through 2013.

Kovacs said $2.6 billion of those funds have been spent, with "$3 billion to spend between today and the end of fiscal year 2013."

But, he told drugmakers and government officials at the annual Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise conference, that BARDA has had to spend an "inordinate amount of time" protecting its funds against reallocation efforts.

CBRN medical countermeasure development should be made a priority, similar to the urgency that was placed on pandemic influenza when Congress appropriated emergency supplemental funds in 2005 and 2006, he contended.