Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would increase American manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).
Blackburn and Menendez introduced the Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet (SAM-C) Act, which combats China and other countries’ dominance in the production of pharmaceutical ingredients. Blackburn’s office noted that only 28 percent of API-producing facilities are located in the United States, and the number of Chinese facilities has more than doubled since 2010.
Blackburn said in a statement on Wednesday:
When confronted with a serious challenge such as the corona virus, it is important to take stock, look at lessons learned and build upon them in order to respond better the next time. Currently, we are too reliant on foreign manufacturing of critical APIs. The SAM-C Act is one step on the right path to strengthen our drug supply chain.
The COVID-19 is a real health emergency and we have to do everything in our power to increase our preparedness and response. This bipartisan proposal will do that by encouraging drug manufacturers to partner with our best minds in higher education on new advancements, creating good jobs and increasing the national production of vaccines and drugs that can save lives. With New Jersey’s concentration of pharmaceutical companies and institutes of learning, we can lead the way and make a difference.
The coronavirus has sounded the alarm over America’s dependence on China and India for producing prescription medications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in February that it had a shortage of one drug used to treat patients with coronavirus. The federal agency said the shortage was attributed to challenges in obtaining the API from a site in China affected by the coronavirus.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted in its 2019 report to Congress that there were “serious deficiencies in health and safety standards in China’s pharmaceutical sector.”
The SAM-C Act will encourage the healthcare industry to bring back pharmaceutical manufacturing to the United States. Blackburn’s office contended that American manufacturing of pharmaceuticals would make it easier to determine whether pharmaceuticals were compromised by coronavirus and other pathogens.
Blackburn and Menendez’s legislation authorizes $100 million to develop advanced manufacturing centers and train the workforce needed in the medical industry.
Blackburn wrote, “Without intervention, the FDA expects the pharmaceutical industry will continue to rely on Chinese companies to make active pharmaceutical ingredients. … The status quo has made us vulnerable. The fix, however, is sitting right in front of us.”
Other Republican senators have sounded the alarm over America’s weaknesses in the country’s medical supply chain.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke to President Donald Trump to support efforts to invest in diversifying the country’s supply chain, especially in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Rubio said that Trump agreed and that the administration is working on an executive order to address this concern.
At yesterday’s lunch I asked @POTUS to support our efforts to invest in diversifying our supply chain, especially in pharmaceuticals & medical equipment.
He agreed & his team led by by Peter Navarro are also working on an EO to help address this. https://t.co/WlX7u158rV
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 11, 2020
Rubio’s announcement follows as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced legislation in February to combat potential American drug shortages created in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Hawley said in February:
The coronavirus outbreak in China has highlighted severe and longstanding weaknesses in our medical supply chain. This is more than unfortunate; it’s a danger to public health. Our health officials need to know the extent of our reliance on Chinese production so they can take all necessary action to protect Americans.
“This legislation will give us the information we need to better secure our supply chain and ensure that Americans have uninterrupted access to life-saving drugs and medical devices,” he added.