Durbin: We Must Safeguard America's Medical Supply Chain Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

WASHINGTON – Amid the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today, during a speech on the Senate floor, previewed legislation he will be introducing this week to safeguard America’s medical supply chain and address shortages due to the United States’ dependence on foreign-made medical equipment. 

Approximately 40 percent of finished drugs and 72 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured overseas—primarily from China and India.  The ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China’s Hubei province has highlighted broader public health and national security challenges about the vulnerability of our nation’s reliance upon foreign manufacturing and the shortcomings in our regulatory oversight of global supply chains. On February 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the first coronavirus-related drug shortage.

“It turns out we have a real dependence when it comes to developing medicines and drugs on these two countries [China and India] and many others… and it raised a question in my mind as to whether we should do something thoughtful and prospective in terms of dealing with global dependence on medicine, medical devices, and medical supplies,” Durbin said.  “So I’m introducing legislation this week calling for the creation of a commission to look at this dependence, to measure it today.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

In his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin also raised the issue of ensuring that a future vaccine for the coronavirus is affordable and available to all that need it, as well as the need for the federal government to coordinate with, and provide funding for, state and local public health authorities.

Durbin’s Commission on America’s Medical Security Act would establish a federal commission to address the dual public health and national security challenge of dependence on foreign-made medical equipment. The commission would:

  • Assess the dependence of the United States, including the private commercial sector and Federal agencies, upon medications, medical devices, and medical equipment that are sourced from, manufactured, or developed in foreign countries.
  • Develop and implement an action plan, utilizing appropriate existing regulatory and funding authorities to 1) increase domestic manufacturing capabilities and 2) secure domestic supply and stockpile of medical equipment, including through the Strategic National Stockpile.
  • Report to Congress on timeliness of objectives, additional authorities needed, and a budget analysis for implementation of action plan.