As tensions continue to rise between the U.S. and China, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, said the coronavirus pandemic “has exposed how dangerously reliant our medical supply chain is on China and other countries.”
In response, Buchanan introduced the “Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet Act” in May, and now is urging House and Senate leadership to include his legislation in the next coronavirus relief package.
The legislation would create a new federal office responsible for stockpiling adequate supplies of critical medicines while encouraging American companies to ramp up manufacturing.
“We must take immediate steps to become less dependent on foreign countries for life-saving drugs,” Buchanan said.
China manufactures 80 to 90% of the key ingredients that make up critical medications distributed to Americans.
“It would ensure that we never again are forced to rely on other countries for critical drugs and to never be put in this vulnerable position again,” Buchanan said.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., have introduced companion legislation in the Senate that also would authorize $100 million to create the National Centers of Excellence for Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing. The goal of the new agency would be to develop and manufacture more of the active ingredients contained in critical medicines within the U.S.
If China and the U.S. were to have a full diplomatic falling out, China’s state-run media agency reported early in the pandemic that Beijing could impose pharmaceutical export controls, which could plunge America into “the mighty sea of coronavirus.”
Buchanan was one of the first in Congress to call for the president to declare a public health emergency and to call for restricting flights into the country from China, the origin of the disease. In 2017, Buchanan proposed that Congress should create a pandemic response fund to combat deadly infectious diseases.
“The pandemic has dangerously strained this critical supply chain, as more than 50 countries around the world have imposed some sort of export ban on essential medicines,” Buchanan said in his letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“In February, the FDA warned that one undisclosed drug was already in short supply in the U.S. because of problems related to the coronavirus outbreak and that it was monitoring about 20 additional drugs whose manufacturers relied solely on China,” Buchanan wrote.
Rosemary Gibson, a senior advisor with the Hastings Center, reported, “If China shut the door on exports of core components to make our medicines, within months our pharmacy shelves would become bare and our healthcare system would cease to function. In the event of a natural disaster or global pandemic, then the United States will wait in line with every other country for essential medicines.”
Buchanan said it is “unconscionable” for other nations to use a global pandemic to hold America hostage over vital medications and that the sooner his legislation is passed, “it would ensure that the United States is never put in this vulnerable position again.”