Washington, D.C. – The past few weeks of self-quarantining, misinformation and confusion have tried the patience of the American people. Every day, I field questions about what the U.S. Senate is doing to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as what steps families should take to protect themselves.
Even before the news of closed restaurants and canceled festivals hit the timeline, Americans were alert to the possibility—perhaps for the first time in their lives—of want. Articles expressing doubt over the country’s healthcare system’s capacity to treat an influx of coronavirus (COVID-19)-afflicted patients prompted us to ask, what if?
What if my local hospital runs out of beds? What if I can’t get my medicines? What if I catch the virus at a clinic?
Our concerns are valid. American healthcare is plagued by vulnerabilities built into its supply chains and delivery systems that transcend illnesses and administrations.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed those vulnerabilities, but it isn’t the root cause of them. From rare earth minerals to electronics to inexpensive consumer goods, China’s stranglehold on the global economy has been well documented; however, unbeknownst to most, China’s influence extends beyond the macroeconomic and into the average American’s medicine cabinet.
Last week Chinese media outlets published comments from the leadership in Beijing that can and should be taken as a credible threat to our pharmaceutical supply chain.
Currently, only 28% of the facilities producing active pharmaceutical ingredients, or “APIs,” are in the United States, which means that American consumers rely heavily on foreign-sourced drugs to stay healthy. Although we can’t yet quantify our dependence on Chinese APIs, we do know that Beijing’s theoretical discussions of export controls could compound into shortages if it makes good on it threats.
Without intervention, the FDA expects that the pharmaceutical industry will continue to rely on Chinese companies to produce APIs. If Congress doesn’t act, what has become corporate America’s standard operating procedure will continue to put lives at risk.
Together with Senator Bob Menendez (D–NJ), I have introduced the Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet, or “SAM-C” Act. It is a bipartisan effort to address our supply-chain vulnerability by encouraging drug manufacturers to bring API creation back to the U.S.
Read the rest of Senator Blackburn’s op-ed on Forbes.com.