Truth in Congressional Labeling

June 1, 2011 – 7:28 pm | By Mari Serebrov | No comments yet

S. 990 was signed into law last week. At first glance, it looks like it extends the life of Small Business Administration programs that are near and dear to the bottom line of many small biotechs.

But somewhere along its pat through the Senate, the bill was stripped of the language that would have extended the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program through Sept. 30, 2012. In its place are a few short paragraphs renewing the Patriot Act. But the title of the bill remains “To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes.”

The Senate quickly came up with a new bill, S. 1082, with the same title, with language to keep SBIR funded for a few more months. The House was expected to approve it Tuesday – the day the current extension expires. To the casual observer, it will appear that Congress is passing a me-too bill.

Although it passed an extension, the Senate hasn’t given up on reauthorizing SBIR. It’s just that the floor debate has gotten bogged down on unrelated, or “off-label,” amendments. Lawmakers are among the first to point accusing fingers at biopharma about truth in labeling and off-label promotion. Maybe it’s time for them to stop gaming the system and lead by example.

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