Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right, and Tina Smith, D-Minn., talk with attendees of the a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on September 25, 2018.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Sens Elizabeth Warren, Tina Smith and Marco Rubio reintroduced two pieces of legislation on Thursday to secure the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain by reducing dependence on China and other nations for the supplies needed to make life-saving drugs and vaccines.
The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 80% of the manufacturers that produce ingredients for drugs are located outside the U.S., many in China and India. While the agency has been closely monitoring the supply chain, it does not have a clear understanding of where drug components are made.
The U.S. faced shortages for drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients during the pandemic as demand surged but supply was disrupted due to factory closures and shipping delays.
“To defeat the current COVID-19 crisis and better equip the United States against future pandemics, we must boost our country’s manufacturing capacity,” Warren, D-Mass., said. “Our bill will end our overreliance on foreign countries and give us the tools we need to produce the critical drugs that millions of Americans depend on here at home.”
Warren and Smith, D-Minn., first introduced the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Defense and Enhancement Act in June 2020.
The bill requires the Food and Drug Administration commissioner and the secretary of Defense to develop a confidential list of “critical drugs,” provides $5 billion for investments in domestic production and requires drugmakers to report the source of their materials to the FDA.
Senators Warren and Rubio, R-Fla., are also re-upping legislation first introduced last year to direct the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Treasury to conduct a study through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
“COVID-19 has made it painfully clear that we must pass meaningful legislation in order to help rebuild our nation’s medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical sector,” Rubio said.
The bill aims to understand how foreign direct investment from abroad affects the nation’s ability to produce drugs, as well as U.S. genome sequencing and DNA storage.
President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Act calls for $30 billion in investments to protect Americans from future pandemics, which includes efforts to bring back pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing to the U.S.
Lawmakers worry that foreign manufacturers could restrict or even completely cut off the supply of critical drug components as geopolitical tensions rise. Bad actors could tamper with drugs to make them ineffective or weaponize them.