Pascrell, Menendez Seek Answers on Coronavirus Affect on Supply Chain

With new countries seemingly everyday reporting their first case of the coronavirus, two North Jersey lawmakers are asking questions about medical supplies originating from China.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Sen. Bob Menendez are seeking answers from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Steven Hahn on the federal government’s plan to preserve the medical supply chain in light of the coronavirus outbreak. In 2018, the United States imported more than $13 billion of drugs, devices, and food from China.

In their letter, the legislators stated they were “concerned about the health and well-being of our own constituents and nation’s ability to access drugs and protective equipment imported from China. As such, we request information on the FDA’s plan to address the safety and security of our supply chain.”

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China is the world’s largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and the U.S. relies heavily on drugs that are sourced from China or include APIs from China. While the FDA has indicated it is taking proactive measures to address any disturbances to the drug supply chain to China, the members question if they are sufficient in light of the epidemic’s growth in recent weeks.

“The epidemic shows no signs of abating,” the letter stated. “As the outbreak continues, the risk to the medical supply chain is potentially calamitous due to global dependence on Chinese manufacturing.”

Since the outbreak began, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted medical supply chain stockpiles are already depleted to a four-to-six-month backlog. On top of that, the demand for personal protective equipment has risen 100 times higher than usual. China manufactures most of the world’s masks, gowns, and respirators, which are essential tools for U.S. hospitals during an infectious disease outbreak. 

Econ, Security Risk

The two Democrats framed the issue as an economic and security risk, citing America’s reliance on China for drugs and APIs. The letter asked for public assurances FDA will maintain access to needed drugs and supplies as coronavirus expands.

“We hope that the FDA is doing everything possible to make modifications to protect the drug and PPE supply chain and expand efforts at transparency. Keeping the public updated and informed at all times is essential,” Pascrell and Menendez conclude.

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