Vern Buchanan Urges Congressional Leaders to Include Proposal Stockpiling Medicine in Next Coronavirus Package

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. sent a letter to leaders in Congress urging them to include his “Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet Act” in the next coronavirus relief package.

Buchanan’s bill, introduced in May, would create a new federal office responsible for stockpiling adequate supplies of critical medicines and encourage companies to ramp up the manufacturing of those drugs.

“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.

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Robert Menendez, D-NJ, also authorizing $100 million to create National Centers of Excellence for Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing with the goal of developing and manufacturing more active pharmaceutical ingredients within the U.S.

Buchanan noted in his letter that 80 percent of the raw ingredients used to manufacture many life-saving medications and antibiotics are produced overseas, primarily in China. According to estimates, Chinese pharmaceutical companies supply between 80 percent and 90 percent of U.S. antibiotics, 70 percent of acetaminophen and about 40 percent of heparin (blood clot medication). China’s state-run media agency in March said Beijing could impose pharmaceutical export controls which would 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 full text of the letter below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell:

As you continue your work on the next coronavirus relief package, I urge you to include legislation I have introduced to rebuild drug manufacturing in the United States following threats by China to cut off life-saving medications to Americans.

The coronavirus has exposed how dangerously reliant our medical supply chain is on China and other countries. We must take immediate take steps to become less dependent on foreign countries for life-saving drugs.

Eighty percent of the raw ingredients used to manufacture many life-saving medications and antibiotics are produced overseas, primarily in China. According to estimates, Chinese pharmaceutical companies supply between 80 percent and 90 percent of U.S. antibiotics, 70 percent of acetaminophen and about 40 percent of heparin (blood clot medication). China’s state-run media agency in March said Beijing could impose pharmaceutical export controls which would plunge America into “the mighty sea of coronavirus.”

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.

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.

My bill, the Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet Act would create a new federal office responsible for stockpiling adequate supplies of critical medicines and encourage companies to ramp up the manufacturing of those drugs. It would also authorize $100 million to create National Centers of Excellence for Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing with the goal of developing and manufacturing more active pharmaceutical ingredients within the U.S.

America has become too dependent on the global supply chain of key medicines, including active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). These raw materials, the basic chemical component in drugs that produces the intended effects, are then used in antibiotic and pills to treat many common chronic conditions such as heart disease.

According to Rosemary Gibson, a senior adviser with the Hastings Center, “If China shut the door on exports of core components to make our medicines, within months our pharmacy shelves would become bare and our health care system would cease to function.” Gibson also said, “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.”

Americans rely on these medications, with nearly 70 percent taking at least one drug daily. Bringing back drug manufacturing to the United States would not only help secure this critical supply chain, but would also help create new jobs to stimulate the American economy. We need to reduce foreign dependence for these important medications.

It is unconscionable that other nations would use a global pandemic to hold countries hostage for these vital medications. And it is critical that we pass the Securing America’s Medicine Cabinets Act, as it would ensure that the United States is never put in this vulnerable position again.

Again, I urge you to include this important legislation as a part of the congressional response to the coronavirus pandemic and thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

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