Declaring independence from foreign drug supply chains

Pharmaceutical company drugs cost
Pharmaceutical company drugs cost

As the COVID-19 pandemic made painfully clear, America’s supply chain is far too dependent on other countries for many of our daily necessities.

Lifesaving prescription drugs are chief among them.

That’s why we believe it’s critical to find ways to boost pharmaceutical production here in the United States, so that we can declare independence from foreign drug supply chains.

There were shortages of 29 of the 40 critical drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the first year of the pandemic.The combination of factory shutdowns, shipping delays, and a dramatic increase in global demand for COVID-19 therapies quickly resulted in shortages of essential medicines.

Even now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently reports shortages of nearly 120 drugs in the United States, which is about three times of what it was last summer. 

Our current system has long been a crisis in the making. 

The pandemic demonstrated why we cannot wait any longer to fix this problem. Even before COVID-19, there had been more than 250 drug shortages.

That’s why we recently introduced bipartisan legislation called The American Made Pharmaceuticals Act to create federal incentives for American-made essential drugs from generics to biosimilars. We believe that this legislation will help to increase onshoring manufacturing of essential drugs and take steps to boost the domestic supply chain.

The two of us, representing both parties of Congress, agree: it’s absolutely essential that America secures and strengthens its medical supply chain.

Our bill would establish a program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide physician rewards or lower out-of-pocket costs for patients using American-made generics, biosimilars, and critical medicines. 

Pharmaceutical companies will be encouraged to provide transparency on manufacturing locations, maintain adequate inventory. And they will need to come up with preparations for future supply chain disruptions. 

These policy measures should reduce drug shortages, and we know that boosting domestic prescription drug production here at home will also create more opportunities for good-paying jobs all over the country.  

That’s why creating our own independent supply chain isn’t only a health and national security imperative. It’s also good for America’s bottom line.
Our dependence on foreign manufacturing goes well beyond drugs. 

China currently dominates the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and medical equipment such as COVID-19 tests, masks, gloves, and pulse oximeters. China also produces many of the antibiotics and pain medicines used all over the world. 

We saw in 2020 how the Chinese government effectively nationalized production at factories run by American companies. That made it much harder for the U.S. government to secure personal protective equipment for Americans. 

We’re glad to see the Biden administration taking steps to improve the resiliency of the U.S. supply chain, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposing increased payments for hospitals when they buy American-made N95 masks.

But more needs to be done.

The good news is that we already have a head start in creating our own independent supply chain. America is a global leader in drug innovation. The problem is that too much of our manufacturing remains overseas.

According to data from the FDA, 72 percent of manufacturing facilities producing active pharmaceutical ingredients supplying the domestic market were overseas. Just 28 percent are based here.

Our continued reliance on ex-U.S. manufacturing for medicines and medical supplies means we are one international conflict, one trade dispute, or one endemic away from a major drug shortage.

Medicine and medical supplies are essential national resources as much as food or weapons. Policymakers should treat them that way. We should pass this legislation to secure our national independence for medical production at home.

Markwayne Mullin represents Oklahoma’s 2nd District and Angie Craig represents Minnesota’s 2nd District. Both are members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Tags China foreign drug supply chain medical supply chain prescription drug supply chain

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