Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Introduces Bill to Boost U.S. Drug Manufacturing

May 5, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today introduced legislation in the U.S. House to rebuild drug manufacturing in the United States following threats by China to cut off life-saving medications to Americans.

"Every day we are learning more about China's malicious intentions, from lying about the origins of the coronavirus to threatening to cut off drug supplies to American citizens during a pandemic," Buchanan said. "It's clear we must take immediate steps to make our country more independent when it comes to producing life-saving medicines."

Eighty percent of the raw ingredients used to manufacture many life-saving medications and antibiotics are produced oversees, primarily in China. According to estimatesChinese 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). 

“As we confront the coronavirus, it has become clear how dangerously reliant we are on China and the global supply chain for pharmaceutical products,” Buchanan said. “We must act swiftly to ensure that America is never again forced to rely on other countries for critical drug components and life-saving drugs.”

Buchanan's bill, titled 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. 

The bill, companion legislation to a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), also authorizes $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. These new centers will utilize public-private partnerships between higher education institutions and private sector entities to discover innovative new pharmaceutical processes and develop new workforce training efforts. 

Buchanan said the United States is 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.

Since the 1990s, U.S. companies have increasingly imported pharmaceutical products from countries around the world, where ingredients are cheaper and subject to fewer regulations. To date, more than 50 countries around the world have imposed some sort of export ban on essential medicines amid the global pandemic.

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. Factory closings and transportation restrictions in the country have already disrupted drug supply chains in April, the Indian government ordered its pharmaceutical companies to stop the export of 26 different drugs and drug ingredients, including many antibiotics.

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.”

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 called it “unconscionable that other nations would use a global pandemic to hold countries hostage for these vital medications. The Securing America’s Medicine Cabinets Act would ensure that the United States is never put in this vulnerable position again.”

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.