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Public Health Preparedness: Developing and Acquiring Medical Countermeasures Against Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Agents

NCJ Number
Cynthia A. Bascetta
Date Published
19 pages
This report presents testimony before the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, Committee on Homeland Security regarding the activities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in developing and acquiring medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents.
This testimony indicates that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) medical countermeasure acquisition strategy is based on a four-step process: (1) identify and assess the threat of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents; (2) assess medical and public health consequences of attacks with these agents; (3) establish medical countermeasure requirements; and (4) identify and prioritize near-, mid-, and long-term development and acquisition. Through this process, HHS is able to identify which countermeasures to buy for specific CBRN agents. However, while a few CBRN countermeasures are immediately available most have not yet been developed. The report also details the challenges facing the Federal Government in developing and acquiring medical countermeasures, such as high failure rates in research and development and difficulties meeting regulatory requirements. This report presents testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding HHS's CBRN medical countermeasure development and acquisition activities. The evaluation by GAO focused on how HHS determines what kinds of CBRN medical countermeasures are needed and their priorities for development and acquisition, as well as challenges faced by HHS in the development and acquisition of medical countermeasures. Figure and appendix