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Addressing Infectious Disease Outbreaks ‘Increasingly Involves Navigating Treacherous Political Waters’

The Conversation: How Congress is failing on Zika
Ana Santos Rutschman, Jaharis Faculty Fellow in health law and intellectual property at DePaul University

“…Earlier this year, Congress hastily passed a bill adding Zika to the [Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] priority review voucher program. … The task of increasing [research and development (R&D)] and funding for neglected diseases was already a complicated one. Governmental agencies like the FDA don’t necessarily want to play a role in promoting these goals, as programs like the priority review vouchers take resources away from their general mandate. One thing the Zika crisis has made clear is that solving emerging disease outbreaks increasingly involves navigating treacherous political waters. Congress’ lack of understanding of the real scope of [the] voucher program compromises efforts to find new ways of encouraging R&D in neglected diseases like Zika. Its inaction when it comes to extending funding for a major outbreak may endanger the health of thousands of Americans” (9/18).

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