Congress impatient with BioShields anti-radiation moves

Published 7 December 2005

HHS under heavy scrutiny from industry and Congress

The search for radiation sickness medication is intense. There are justifiable worries about nuclear explosion in an American city, and about the even more likely event of a dirty bomb going off (a more likely scenario because the nuclear materials with which a terrorist would turn a conventional bomb into a dirty one are widely used, readily available, unregulated, and not subject to any meaningful safety regime). We have recently reported about San Diego, California-based Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals’ harsh criticism of the efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to purchase radiation sickness medications, and now a House committee is intensifying its oversight of the way HHS is buying radiation therapies. The House Government Reform Committee chair Thomas Davis (R-Virginia) last week asked HHS to hand over preliminary, draft, and final solicitations for countermeasures to acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Finding the appropriate ARS medication is a central element of DHS’s $5.6 billion Project BioShield, but the House panel charged that DHS lacks a “consistent game plan” for implementing the project.

Last September HHS released a draft RFP which called for 100,000 doses of countermeasures to an ARS-induced condition called neutropenia. Hollis-Eden, Representative Davis, and other members of Congress criticized both the medication specifications requested by HHS and number of doses. A notice from HHS posted last month said that the final RFP, to be released 9 December, will keep the dose figure at 100,000 and omit thrombocytopenia as a requirement, although drugs that treat the condition will receive extra points in a scoring system for proposals.

Department officials have said little publicly, often citing procurement regulations, and did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But a notice posted online 18 November said HHS anticipates it may buy up to 100,000 additional doses in future solicitations.

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