Sen. Cotton and Rep. Gallagher Introduce Bill to Cut US Dependency on China for Key Drugs

March 19, 2020 Updated: March 19, 2020

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) announced plans to introduce a bill to reduce U.S. dependence on China manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.

Called the Protecting our Pharmaceutical Supply Chain from China Act, it is to be introduced on March 19, according to a release.

A March 18 joint statement (pdf) from Cotton and Gallagher reads: “After China covered up the spread of the China virus which lead to a global pandemic, a Chinese Communist Party organization asserted that Beijing could ‘announce strategic control over medical products and ban exports to the United States. Then, the United States will be caught in the ocean of viruses.'”

The key restrictions outlined in the bill would go into effect in 2022, making the United States more resilient in the face of future pandemics. It’s a forward-looking measure to cut dependency on other countries for supplies of key pharmaceuticals that could be used to prevent or treat infections.

Specifically, the bill will track active pharmaceutical ingredients through an FDA registry and prohibit pharmaceutical purchases from China and products with active pharmaceutical ingredients created in China. It will also create transparency in the supply chain by instituting a country-of-origin label of all imported drugs, and provide economic incentives for manufacturing drugs and medical equipment in the United States.

Epoch Times Photo
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in Washington in 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

‘Global Emergency’

The move to introduce the bill comes amid a growing number of infections in the United States of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus as the CCP virus due to the Chinese Communist Party’s initial coverup and mismanagement of the outbreak, which helped the virus spread across China and become a global pandemic.

According to a March 19 Johns Hopkins tally, the United States has 11,274 confirmed cases of the disease and 157 deaths. Washington state accounts for 68 of the COVID-19 deaths, followed by New York state with 21, and California with 16.

Experts have long called for more decoupling between the United States and China in the area of strategic supplies.

Rosemary Gibson, a senior adviser at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute, told The Epoch Times previously that the CCP virus outbreak exposes America’s dangerous overreliance on other countries for lifesaving medicines.

“This is a giant wake-up call,” she said.

During a testimony in July 2019 at a hearing by the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission, Gibson provided details of the depletion of parts of the United States’ pharmaceutical industrial base.

“The U.S. can no longer make generic antibiotics. Because the U.S. has allowed the industrial base to wither, the U.S. cannot produce generic antibiotics for children’s ear infections, strep throat, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sexually-transmitted diseases, Lyme disease, superbugs, and other infections that are threats to human life. We cannot make the generic antibiotics for anthrax exposure,” she told lawmakers.

CCP Virus ‘Hell’

On March 4, Chinese state-run outlet Xinhua re-published a blog post titled, “With justice on our side, the world should thank China.”

“Now the United States is in turmoil. More and more states have declared a state of emergency, while the whole country is extremely short on medical supply. A coronavirus epidemic is almost inevitable,” the article stated.

It went on to say that U.S. reliance on supply chains in China proves that the former needs the latter to contain the virus.

“Most facial masks in the U.S. market are made and imported from China. … The majority of medicine in the U.S. is imported from other countries. … If China bans exports to the United States, the latter will enter into hell caused by the coronavirus.”

Cotton and Gallagher’s initiative seeks to de-risk this supply chain.

“The Chinese Communist Party has threatened to cut off America’s access to vital drugs in the midst of a pandemic caused by its own failures. It’s time to pull America’s supply chains for life-saving medicine out of China and make the CCP pay for contributing to this global emergency,” Cotton said in a release.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s outrageous threats to withhold lifesaving drugs from the U.S. endangers public health and should open our eyes to our dangerous over-reliance on China in our medical supply chain,” said Gallagher in the same release. “This is a national security imperative that to many Americans, is a matter of life and death. It’s past time for us to develop an aggressive plan to move critical pharmaceutical supply chains away from China.”

‘Process Has Already Started’

On March 3, the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force met with representatives of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies at the White House. Trump said steps were already being taken to mitigate the public health risks of reliance on other countries for key drugs and equipment.

“The coronavirus shows the importance of bringing manufacturing back to America so that we are producing, at home, the medicines and equipment and everything else that we need to protect the public’s health,” Trump said. “That process has already started.”

Trump, Coronavirus Task Force Members Meet With Pharmaceutical Executives
President Donald Trump leads a meeting with pharmaceutical executives at the White House on March 2, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“We want to make certain things at home. We want to be doing our manufacturing at home. It’s not only done in China,” Trump said. “A lot of places make our different drugs and things that we need so badly.”

Trade expert Alan Tonelson praised the Trump administration’s efforts to reshore strategic manufacturing capacity.

“A U.S. economy heavily reliant on vital medicines and their ingredients from an increasingly hostile and secretive China is a devastating indictment of pre-Trump national security and public health policy,” Tonelson told The Epoch Times in an email.

“But the purely economic effects shouldn’t be overlooked either, as globalist leaders also encouraged the buildup of China as a huge global manufacturing hub, and thereby exposed Americans to the risk of shortages and other supply chain risks in a wide variety of critical products.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) recently said in a statement that the nation’s hospitals face a serious shortage of personal protective equipment for staff and infected patients, including gowns, gloves, face shields, surgical masks, and N95 respirators.

On March 18, Trump announced he was invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to expand the supply of resources available to deal with the outbreak.

The DPA allows the president to direct the production of private sector firms of critical manufactured goods to meet urgent national security needs.

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