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Protect medical supplies and America's ability to manufacture them

March 31, 2020

A lot can get lost inside $2.2 trillion legislation, not to mention all those details about the programs created by the largest stimulus bill the United States has ever passed. However, we don't want to overlook the push to create a bipartisan Commission on America's Medical Security. It, too, was included with the legislation.

The commission will oversee an effort by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to review America's dependence on foreign-made medical equipment, devices and medications and make recommendations.

"We want a robust but a fairly quick report here on what do we need to do to begin to ensure that we solve this problem quickly, and if there’s another pandemic, then the problem has already been solved in advance,” U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt recently told the Globe. “I think the time element to get this done is in the very near future.”

Blunt — chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies — helped make this happen, and we appreciate his leadership.

By now, you know the supply line weaknesses this pandemic has exposed: According to Blunt, about 40% of finished drugs and 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured overseas — primarily China and India. That leaves Americans vulnerable not just when these drugs and ingredients are weaponized but also to natural disasters that may force shutdowns and prevent shipment.

Speaking on the Senate floor recently, Blunt said, “It's more and more clear that protecting our nation's medical supply chain is both a priority for public health and for national security. Obviously, the supply chain has become more and more global. Now, economic efficiency makes sense. Being more competitive makes sense. It's fine to buy things from other countries, but it's better if you have multiple options ... including domestic production. It's especially true when it comes to vital options like medical devices, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, products we need for public health and safety."

We'll wait to see what conclusions the commission reaches, but much of it will surely come down to rebuilding American manufacturing, which has been decimated by both cheap labor and the willingness of American companies to shift production overseas. The lesson is already becoming clear — sometimes the cost savings are just too high.

To read the article online, click here

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