The coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate the news, with media outlets mixing coverage of global market impacts alongside the growing fears of how this virus will affect our physical, social, and financial lives.
Just below that layer of coverage are concerns about what the response to this virus is doing to the global inventory of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, and whether U.S.-controlled resources are enough to meet national demand.
MOAA addressed China’s dominance as the global leader in medication production back in January 2019, with award-winning medical author Rosemary Gibson. Her article for MOAA outlined the security threat posed by U.S. dependence on Chinese drugs and the decades-long decline in domestic production; these themes are expanded in her book, China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine.
The issue being discussed over a year ago was the potential for China to weaponize medicines; in fact, China has a virtual monopoly over the production of many of the critical pharmaceuticals we use every day. It is unacceptable for our military and civilians to be vulnerable to China's ability to weaponize those pharmaceuticals simply by withholding their shipment or adulterating their ingredients.
The coronavirus highlights the need for our nation to have a more reliable, internal source for essential medications. To mitigate this military vulnerability, Gibson and others have been recommending DoD and the VA change their procurement practices and consider incentives to foster a re-emergence of domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing to ensure the security of our medications.
Fast forward to this year for a clear example of how vulnerable we are as a nation when it comes to relying on China for medications and medical supplies—even outside of the military context. To this point, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) wrote an article for the health-news website STAT suggesting incentives for the private sector to adopt new cost-effective technology to help U.S.-based companies manufacture medicines stateside.
Blackburn backed up her article by introducing legislation to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the U.S. The time is right – the current conditions and uncertainties set the stage for action now. MOAA calls on all members to write their members of Congress in support of S. 3432, the Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet (SAM-C) Act, and the companion House bill (when introduced).
The challenges are happening fast – we need to move out faster.