Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.) on Tuesday advocated for bipartisan support of bills that would increase domestic pharmaceutical production amid shortages of essential drugs.
“We are working in a bipartisan fashion to address this,” said Carter. “Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, or an Independent, if you need that medication, you need that medication, and it needs to be available for you.”
Soto said that the main reason for drug shortages was the fact that the U.S. was very dependent on other countries for key drugs, in particular China and India.
“Right now, 72 percent of our pharmaceuticals are imported, 13 percent from China, and of course they’re an economic rival of ours,” Soto told The Hill contributing editor Steve Scully at the “Reimagining the Pharma Supply Chain” event.
Carter said that the issues with relying on foreign production for key drugs became very apparent during the pandemic.
“India withheld 26 drugs, 26 essential drugs during the pandemic that we could have used but they were hoarding those drugs in order to make sure they had them for their country,” Carter told Scully.
“Now, nobody can really blame them for that, but at the same time that puts us in a predicament, where we don’t have access to those drugs,” Carter said.
Both Carter and Soto agreed that the U.S had to be better prepared for an emergency situation like the COVID-19 pandemic in the future.
“We don’t want to be caught flat footed again, like we saw in 2020 when the pandemic hit our shores,” said Soto.
“We can’t be caught with our pants down if you will, and not have the antibiotics available for when the next big bug comes out,” said Carter.
Carter also talked about key legislation he had introduced to combat drug shortages domestically.
One such piece of legislation was the State Stockpile Readiness Act which would temporarily authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to award matching grants to states for expanding or maintaining stockpiles of commercially available medical equipment and supplies during a public health emergency.
The other piece of legislation Carter discussed was the Essential Medicines Strategic Stockpile Act which would create a pilot program with private entities to test the effectiveness of creating a stockpile of generic drugs at risk of shortage.
Carter maintained that the latter bill would “help and encourage the manufactures to use the private sector to have these stockpiles particularly of generic drugs.”
“So that if we do have a problem like we’re experiencing right now in Amoxicillin that we can address that problem” he added.
Carter said that the biggest obstacle to getting pharmaceutical companies to set up shop in the U.S. was negative profit incentives.
“These are companies, you know, practicing capitalism, so we’ve got to be more competitive,” he said.
To address this issue, Soto said that a bipartisan group of lawmakers had introduced the Made in America Act which he and Carter co-sponsored.
“It would provide 25 to 30 percent tax incentives to boost more domestic manufacturing so that we’re not shipping drugs all the way across from the Pacific or from the Atlantic, so that we’re sourcing more raw materials here,” said Soto.
Additionally, the tax credits proposed in the bill would only go to pharmaceutical companies that set up in areas designated as economic opportunity zones.
Soto said he hopes the measure could be taken up in the next Congress.