Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Miss.) announced on Feb. 25 that he will be introducing new legislation aimed at making the U.S. medical supply chain less reliant on Chinese production.
“I will introduce legislation this week to jump-start that effort,” Hawley said, adding that he would share more details about the legislation soon but did not elaborate further.
His announcement comes just one day after he sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn asking what actions the agency is taking to mitigate potential medical shortages caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China.
“The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus has threatened the domestic supply of some 150 prescription drugs, including antibiotics, generics, and branded drugs. Some of these drugs do not have alternatives on the market,” Hawley wrote in the letter.
“The degree to which some of our own manufacturers rely on China to produce life-saving and life-sustaining medications is inexcusable. It is becoming clear to me that both oversight hearings and additional legislation are necessary to determine the extent of our reliance on Chinese production and protect our medical product supply chain.”
Hawley asked the FDA what actions it would be taking to ensure U.S. citizens aren’t faced with a shortage of life-saving drugs and medical devices, that safe alternatives to scarce medical products are available for public use, and what additional resources the FDA had dedicated to identifying vulnerabilities in the U.S. medical product supply chain.
The junior senator from Missouri also questioned the agency on what additional statutory authority it needs to require information from manufacturers about the sourcing of component parts, active pharmaceutical ingredients, or scarce raw materials in the medical products they produce.
Finally, Hawley asked the agency if they would be willing to testify in congressional hearings about “these troubling vulnerabilities in our medical product supply chain and potential policy solutions to keep Americans safe.”
According to a recent study by the Department of Commerce, 97 percent of all antibiotics in the United States come from China, and although India is the world’s leading supplier of generic drugs, India gets 80 percent of its active pharmaceutical ingredients directly from China.
Hawley’s letter comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Feb. 25 that they anticipate the coronavirus to spread in the United States and asked Americans to prepare, though they remain unsure exactly how many people in the country will be severely affected.
“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, told reporters on Tuesday.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” she said. “I continue to hope that in the end we’ll look back and feel like we are overprepared, but that is a better place to be in than being underprepared.”