Bipartisan Senate Bill Aims To Bolster Domestic Drug Supply Chain

Source: NBC News

A bipartisan group of senators aims to strengthen the pharmaceutical supply chain with a bill that focuses on boosting stockpiles through increased drug manufacturing in the U.S. and allied countries. The legislation was drafted in response to a report published in March that found more than 295 medications, including lifesaving treatments, are in short supply nationwide.

The bill seeks to increase the stock of medications by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to award contracts for generic drug manufacturing to U.S.-based companies or members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Contract recipients would be required to bolster production capacity and maintain sufficient drug reserves.

“Active drug shortages are at their worst in nearly a decade and present serious health and national security concerns,” said Gary Peters, D-Mich., the chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a sponsor of the legislation, known as the RAPID Reserve Act.

Peters said in a statement that the “bill would help ensure the U.S. is better prepared for future health threats and Americans can always access essential medications.”

Fellow committee members Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined Peters in announcing the bill, which would also boost domestic production of critical pharmaceuticals and limit dependence on foreign providers like China and India, an issue that became a flashpoint during the Covid pandemic when some countries curtailed their exports of key drugs.

“The United States’ over-reliance on Communist China for vital medications poses a threat to national security,” Blackburn said in a statement. “We must support domestic manufacturing of critical medications and work to prevent potential shortages during future national emergencies.”

The March report on drug supplies, prepared by the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the U.S. had been dealing with a worsening drug shortage for more than a decade, affecting a variety of medications, including antibiotics and treatments for asthma and cancer.

Brown emphasized in a statement Thursday that there “is no reason” people in the U.S. should face shortages and rely on other countries to provide “90 percent of the critical pharmaceutical ingredients that go into these drugs.”

The bill would require the Government Accountability Office to study whether domestic production of medications is underused. The government watchdog agency would then have to submit a report on its findings and recommendations to Congress.

Peters last month introduced a bill with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, that would direct three government agencies to assess supply chain vulnerabilities and overreliance on foreign countries.

Both measures stem from the committee report’s recommendations.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., last month called on Congress and the Food and Drug Administration to take action to maximize the nation’s supply.

More recently, Pfizer, which produces the most widely used Covid vaccine, painkillers and anesthetics, warned last week of drug shortages after a tornado destroyed a company plant in North Carolina this month.

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