HHS increases stockpile for radiation syndrome countermeasures

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday that it has placed orders under Project BioShield contracts to increase the nation's anti-radiation drug stockpile.

The drugs, known as leukocyte growth factors, treat acute radiation syndrome by stimulating bone marrow to produce infection-fighting white blood cells known as neutrophils. Leukocyte growth factors have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are currently used to treat cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.

"Today's agreements are a prime example how Project BioShield can be leveraged to bring our nation the medical countermeasures we need to face threats from chemical, biological or radiological emergencies," Robin Robinson, the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said.

The contract, for the late stage development and procurement of a leukocyte growth factor called Leukine, was awarded to to Sanofi-Aventis for an estimated $36.5 million. Another contract worth an estimated $157.5 million was awarded to Amgen USA Inc., located in Thousand Oaks, Calif., for the purchasing of the leukocyte growth factor Neupogen.

Project BioShield, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, is the main way the U.S. government supports advanced development and procurement of new medical countermeasures against CBRN threats.