How long does it take for Congress to pass potentially life-saving legislation that has widespread support and no obvious opposition? We are now at fifteen months and counting.
Since 2005, the number of medications in short supply -- including cancer drugs -- has more than tripled. The reasons are complex and include manufacturing problems and reduced production due to lower profits with generic drugs. There is no simple answer. However, one solution lies with giving the FDA more power to help solve the problem. Given enough warning, the FDA has been able to prevent shortages by helping companies increase production. What the FDA wants is a law requiring companies to warn the agency when drugs are running out. That very law -- that would help fix the problem -- was introduced in Congress fifteen months ago with bipartisan support, the backing of the President, and no obvious opposition from any special interest group. But it has still not reached the floor for a vote. I went to Washington and asked six members of Congress -- three Democrats and Three republicans -- why it's taking so long. The segment aired earlier this week on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.
Finally, the finish line appears close. Two weeks ago, drug shortage legislation finally cleared a Senate committee. And just this morning I got some good news from Michael Mahaffey, the Communications Director for Representative Tom Rooney, a Republican from Florida. He told me that the Energy and Commerce Committee approved a larger bill today that includes the legislation. That means language supporting the new law has now passed out of committee in each chamber of Congress. The next step is for the full House and Senate to finally vote on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office told CBS earlier this week that the vote may occur in the Senate before Memorial Day.