Senators offer legislation to address drug shortages, supply chain problems

In a bipartisan effort to address drug shortages in the U.S., Senators Gary Peters, D-Michigan, and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, have introduced legislation to have several government agencies investigate weaknesses in the country’s supply chain and develop a plan to reduce the United States' dependence on foreign countries.

The legislation—dubbed the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Risk Assessment Act—was introduced last week and calls for the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy to make assessments and plans to address the issue that has been brewing for years.

Currently, the FDA lists more than 200 drugs in short supply on its online drug shortage database. Separately, the American Society of Health System Pharmacists lists more than 900 shortages of various drugs and doses. The numbers have been growing over the past decade, with shortages also now lasting longer then before, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine cited in a March 2023 letter from lawmakers to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D.

About 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured outside the U.S., which poses a national security risk if there is a national or global crisis, according to a June 15 press release sent by Ernst’s office.

“The United States cannot continue to rely on our foreign adversaries, like China, for critically important materials to meet the medical needs of Americans,” Ernst said in the release. “I’m sounding the alarm on our compromised medical supply chain."

“This bipartisan legislation will provide the federal government with a better understanding of how our over-reliance on foreign nations for critical drugs threatens our military readiness and creates health risks for Americans,” Peters added in the release. “This is just the first step, and I am continuing to work on additional legislation that will help strengthen our drug supply chains and prevent drug shortages.”

The U.S. isn’t alone in experiencing drug shortages. In January, European offices cited increased demand for antibiotics like amoxicillin as an “ongoing public health concern.” Further, offices from EU member states have said manufacturing delays and production capacity issues have exacerbated supply problems across many member states.

Last Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced he was looking to relocate more production of key products and pharmaceutical ingredients in France to help prevent future drug shortages.