AIDS Action Network Fax
August 1, 1997
Congress Begins Recess: Funding for AIDS Programs Hangs in the BalanceMembers of Congress return to their home states today to begin a month-long recess, leaving, yet unfinished, full floor action on both House and Senate FY98 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor/HHS) appropriations bills, which provide funding for AIDS prevention, care, training, and research. Republican leaders originally intended to bring the House bill to the floor for debate before recess. They postponed consideration of the bill, however, when it became apparent that a group of conservative members would offer a slew of amendments, stalling the bill or even making it completely unacceptable to enough Democrat and moderate Republican members that it might not pass.
AIDS Action is extremely concerned that this situation might hold hostage federal funding that is desperately needed. The House Labor/HHS appropriations bill contains increases for all AIDS programs including the Ryan White CARE Act and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which are the medical care and prescription drug lifelines for un- or under-insured people living with HIV/AIDS.
The House will debate and vote on the bill in September when the Senate will also consider its version of the FY98 Labor/HHS bill. While both House and Senate versions of the bill provide increases in AIDS-related funding, they differ in how increases are distributed between programs.
Anxious that these bills be passed quickly and in the best interests of people living with, and at risk for contracting, HIV/AIDS, AIDS Action will be working during the August recess to keep hostile amendments from being added to the House Labor/HHS appropriations bill, while urging both House and Senate members to provide the highest possible funding for all AIDS programs.
FDA "Reform" Delayed in SenateUnable to reach a final agreement, the Senate delayed taking action on the Food and Drug Modernization and Accountability Act of 1997 (S. 830) until members return from the August recess. AIDS Action and other national patient and consumer groups continue to be concerned that the bill will weaken the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that products made available to the American public are safe and effective. Proposals in the bill would lower the current "gold standard" for new drug approvals, remove important safeguards for patients taking medications for serious and life-threatening conditions, and allow drug companies to market their products based solely on economic criteria. Reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) also remains threatened, having been tied to these other contentious "reform" provisions.
The Senate bill would also allow drug companies to actively promote off-label uses of FDA-approved drugs. Off-label uses occur when physicians prescribe an FDA-approved drug for a medical use or condition for which the drug has not been fully tested and FDA-approved. Off-label marketing undermines FDA scrutiny of new drugs and their medical applications, and removes important incentives for companies to conduct additional research into new drug uses. Such a disincentive is particularly threatening for people living with HIV/AIDS, as there remain many questions about the applications of protease inhibitors and the different combination therapies that involve them.
House Committee Repeals FASA,
The House Appropriations Committee completed action on the Treasury,
Postal Service, and General Government appropriations bill, which included
language to repeal the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA). FASA
authorizes state and local agencies to purchase products and services at
reduced prices that are currently available only to federal agencies. AIDS
Action has been working to save this program, because it could allow public
hospitals, state and local health departments, and state AIDS Drug
Assistance Programs (ADAPs) to take advantage of discounts on some
prescription drugs, potentially allowing agencies purchasing AIDS
medications to save between 31 percent and 62 percent.