The pandemic has revealed gaping holes and vulnerabilities in our supply chains – perhaps none more critical than our medical supply chain.
Right now, the United States is dependent on other countries for a range of pharmaceutical products, including what are known as active pharmaceutical ingredients that are essential to making lifesaving generic prescription drugs.
Generic drugs make up 90 percent of all prescriptions filled in the United States, and about 87 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients used in those drugs are made overseas.
That’s why I’m introducing the bipartisan Promoting Readiness and Ensuring Proper Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient Reserves of Essential Medicines Act – better known as the PREPARE Act – with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy from Louisiana. It would create an emergency, domestic supply of key ingredients used in essential generic medicines.
This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to maintain a list of essential generic medicines, and to build out a domestic supply of the critical ingredients needed to manufacture them. It would create a new position at HHS, the Director of the Strategic Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients Reserve, specifically tasked with assembling and overseeing that stockpile.
It would also put a priority on domestic manufacturing of these ingredients, so we can build a more resilient supply chain here in the U.S.
There is no reason we should be relying on countries like China or India for nearly 90 percent of these critical pharmaceutical ingredients, when we have talented scientists and manufacturers here in the U.S., including here in Ohio.
Places like Xellia Pharmacueticals in Bedford, Ohio are producing these drugs right here in the United States. They’re supporting this bill, along with manufacturers around the country, because they know it could not only mean more business when assembling this reserve, but it would also help build out domestic capacity for the entire system of production, storage, and conversion into finished drugs.
We need to learn the lessons of COVD-19, and make sure we are better prepared for future health emergencies, so we can keep Americans safe and healthy.
Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.