WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Some lawmakers in Washington believe the coronavirus has exposed America’s over-reliance on China for important drugs and medical equipment. Now, there’s a bipartisan effort to change that.
The vast majority of drugs Americans use come from China and in the age of coronavirus, many lawmakers say that’s a problem.
“I think that this is a national security issue,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo. D-Calif.
Eshoo proposed creating a new commission of scientists, doctors, pharmaceutical reps and defense officials to lay the groundwork for manufacturing critical drugs in the U.S.
“If China wants to make sneakers and t-shirts and all that, that’s one thing. But we should not be dependent on any country for the most critical drugs,” she said.
Beyond vital drugs, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., says the U.S. depends too much on China for medical equipment.
“We should never allow China to control supply chains,” Rep. McCarthy said.
He says there’s bipartisan support to change that.
“This Congress should work to bring those back to America,” he said.
Lawmakers say while it may be cheaper to produce generic drugs in China or India, the potential security risk especially during a pandemic is too high to bear. And medical experts say changing that would only take a few months.
“There is a safety issue when you don’t have a diversified supply chain,” said Mike Alkire, the president of healthcare company Premier Inc.
Alkire says there are enough American manufacturers to make generic drugs that could treat the virus’ symptoms.
He says by fall the U.S. could maintain enough supply to keep costs competitive.
“That would certainly be, I’d say comparative in pricing to what southeast Asia’s offering,” he said.
Some lawmakers say funding to manufacture drugs and PPE domestically should be in the next relief package.