Today in the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing entitled “The Coronavirus and America’s Small Business Supply Chain,” U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) questioned panelists on the United States medical supply chain’s dependence on China.

Senator Hawley questioned Hastings Center Senior Adviser Rosemary Gibson on how many American drugs involve Chinese production.

"Thousands. Thousands of our generic drugs and even some of the brand name products and perhaps even new therapies for coronavirus may depend on the chemicals that are sourced primarily in China. . . I was sitting in a room with the people that actually make medicines. These are the men and women in pharmaceutical engineering and pharmaceutical chemistry. I said, 'So tell me, if you have to make these tomorrow, where do the core chemicals come from to make it? How much are we dependent on China?' They said 90 percent of the chemicals to make those basic generic drugs depend on China."

Rosemary Gibson

Senator Hawley asked Johns Hopkins University Professor Dr. Gerard Anderson how the federal government can support small biotech companies and if their being bought up by large pharma companies accelerates the offshoring of the US capacity to China.

"Essentially that they have a guaranteed place to sell their products. Right now, they are coming up with these great new ideas, but they don’t always have a place to see their products... The big companies are looking where they can produce least expensively and then going there, especially the generic because it’s all price driven."

Dr. Gerard Anderson

Senator Hawley also questioned Mr. Tim Morrison, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, on the motive of the U.S. ending the domestic production of penicillin in 2004, despite 62 million penicillin prescriptions being filled in the U.S. in 2015.

"I think the point of Made in China 2025 is essentially to destroy the free market and create incentives to offshore production in China. And originally this seemed like a good thing. We'll save prices. We'll move value, or value you can move, we’ll continue to do the innovation, but China is scooping that up as well. And so, without any decision by any government authority this happened and now we are going to deal with the consequences. And of course, an antibiotic isn't instrumental to treat a virus, but the respiratory infection, it is."

Tim Morrison

Senator Hawley introduced the Medical Supply Chain Security Act to help secure the U.S. medical product supply chain, in light of reports of potential American drug shortages due the coronavirus outbreak. Companion legislation was introduced in the House last week. He has also questioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanding answers for what is being done to mitigate potential drug and medical device shortages here in the United States.

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