House Republicans ask FDA for information about virus manipulation in laboratories, drug shortages

FDA Building 21 stands behind the sign at the campus’s main entrance and houses the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. The FDA campus is located at 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20993. (FDA/Flickr)

A group of House Republicans sent letters Tuesday to the Food and Drug Administration demanding answers about virus manipulation in laboratories and drug shortages.

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf asking for more information about the coronavirus, saying that the agency previously did not answer all their questions about COVID-19 research.

“After Republican Committee staff followed up, the FDA staff acknowledged in a January 31, 2023, email response that some FDA research studies did involve virus manipulation, passaging of a virus, genetically modified animals, or making any mutations to a virus,” the letter reads.

The lawmakers said that while the FDA answered some of their questions, the agency did not provide any further details.

“However, the FDA did not provide further specifics about these studies,” the letter continued. “To put these studies in context and to be able to assess the adequacy of FDA’s oversight of potential risks in such experiments, we are requesting additional information.”

The group of Republicans asked the FDA whether the studies introduced mutations connected with the transmission of COVID-19 and what the purpose of that introduction was. The letter also questioned the agency on whether the studies went through Institutional Biosafety Committee or Dual Use Research of Concern reviews and what the process looked like for that.

Many Republicans have questioned the origins of the coronavirus, and many of them have promoted the lab leak theory, which suggests that COVID-19 was started in a lab instead of originating naturally.

The lawmakers that penned the letter sent an additional request to ask for more information about drug shortages in the United States.

The lawmakers wrote that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act required companies to report on the total amounts of drugs manufactured annual and how many were processed for distribution. The also bill required companies to disclose where the drugs’ active ingredients were manufactured, they mentioned.

The letter stated that it is “not clear” what the FDA has done with this new data, saying that there have not been any summaries made of the reports.

“The FDA states that it monitors ongoing drug shortages and works closely with manufacturers and others in the supply chain to understand, mitigate and prevent or reduce any related impacts,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The FDA has also requested additional legal authority from Congress to gain additional access to medical supply chain information,” the letter reads. “However, it is not clear to the Committee that FDA is effectively using its existing authorities.”

The House Republicans are asking for data on the total aggregated amount of drugs and more information on what drugs have a national shortage. Specifically, the lawmakers are requesting more information on shortages of drugs that treat asthma, cancer, tuberculosis, bacterial infections and pain associated with aches and fevers.

The lawmakers are requesting answers no later than April 10.

Tags Brett Guthrie Cathy McMorris Rodgers Robert Califf

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