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Jones, colleagues introduce bipartisan bill to address medical supply vulnerability due to COVID-19

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Ala., alongside a bipartisan group of his colleagues, has introduced legislation to safeguard America’s medical supply chain and address shortages due to the United States’ dependence on foreign-made medical equipment.  

Approximately 40 percent of finished drugs and 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured overseas, primarily from China and India. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak has highlighted broader public health and national security vulnerabilities stemming from our nation’s reliance upon foreign manufacturing and the shortcomings in our regulatory oversight of global supply chains.

“The global COVID-19 outbreak has made it clear that the United States needs a strategy to increasedomestic production of the testing and treatments that folks need,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “This bill will help us address our nation’s dependence on foreign-made medical equipment and will help boost domestic production and policy.”

On February 27, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the first coronavirus-related drug shortage, and on March 10, the FDA halted its routine overseas inspections of drugs and devices. In December, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission sounded the alarm on the “growing reliance” on drugs and precursors produced, in many cases exclusively, in China.  This week, state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have raised concerns about a looming shortage of coronavirus extraction kit reagents needed to conduct diagnostic testing.

The bipartisan Commission on America’s Medical Security Act would direct the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to:

  • Assess the dependence of and vulnerabilities to the United States, including the private commercial sector, states, and Federal agencies, on critical medications, medical devices, and medical equipment that are sourced from or manufactured in foreign countries.
  • Provide recommendations and an action plan to improve the resiliency of the supply chain for critical drugs, devices, and equipment, including to increase domestic manufacturing capabilities, supplies and stockpiles, and improve information collection and contingency planning.
  • Consult, in the development of its report, with federal agencies—including Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Defense, Commerce, State, Justice, and Veterans Affairs—as well as public health, medical, and commercial industry stakeholders.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Tammy Baldwin, D-WI., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joined Senator Jones in introducing this legislation.

A House companion bill will be introduced by U.S. Representatives Raul Ruiz, CA-36, Lauren Underwood, IL-14, and Phil Roe, M.D.,TN-01.

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The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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