Peters and Ernst Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Address National Security Threat Created by U.S. Dependence on Foreign Drug Manufacturers

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure the federal government is better prepared to address the national security threat posed by our nation’s overreliance on foreign sources for critical medications. The legislation builds off recommendations from two reports released by Peters in 2019 and 2023 that identified national security concerns related to our nation’s overdependence on foreign sources for critical drug products and a lack of transparency into U.S. pharmaceutical supply chains. U.S. overdependence on geographically concentrated foreign sources have contributed to ongoing drug shortages that affect every American. The bipartisan Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Risk Assessment Act would require the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct a comprehensive assessment of pharmaceutical supply chain vulnerabilities and related national security risks, as well as develop plans to reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign nations for critical drugs.

“Our federal government’s lack of visibility into the entire supply chain for critical medications limits our ability to address drug shortages that pose a serious national security risk and could compromise medical care for people all across the country, including service members,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation will provide the federal government with a better understanding of how our overreliance on foreign nations for critical drugs threatens our military readiness and creates health risks for Americans, which will help lawmakers ensure our nation is better able to mitigate these national security threats. 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 United States cannot continue to rely on our foreign adversaries, like China, for critically important materials to meet the medical needs of Americans,” Senator Ernst said. “I’m sounding the alarm on our compromised medical supply chain. It’s past time to reduce our reliance on bad actors and protect the health of our citizens now and in the future.”

Our nation’s reliance on foreign suppliers – mostly in China and India – for the raw materials needed to make medications has only continued to grow. For example, between 2010 and 2015 the number of Chinese-based manufacturers of key ingredients needed to make drugs more than doubled. A 2021 DOD Inspector General report found that the U.S. military also relies on foreign sources, including adversaries like China, to purchase drugs, but DOD failed to conduct a formal risk assessment.  The senators’ legislation would require DOD, HHS, and DHS to build on existing lists of critical drugs to include at-risk populations, such as cancer patients, and drug products that if in shortage would pose a significant threat to the U.S. healthcare system. This list would then be used to identify which drugs and key ingredients have vulnerable supply chains, including those that do not have domestic manufacturing sources, are reliant on geographically-concentrated foreign suppliers, or are sourced from countries with geopolitical risks.  

Below are statements in support of the senators’ bipartisan legislation:

“With current oncology drug shortages impacting thousands of patients across the U.S., we are at a critical point that will likely lead to worsening patient outcomes,” said Everett Vokes, MD, FASCO, Board Chair of the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO). “ASCO supports the recent introduction of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Risk Assessment Act of 2023. This legislation would require an interagency risk assessment of the pharmaceutical supply chain to identify and mitigate health and national security risks. Individuals with cancer need bipartisan solutions like this to protect timely access to life-saving and life-prolonging treatments. By securing the pharmaceutical supply chain, we are able to more confidently ensure that patients are receiving the best treatment available when they need it. We commend Sen. Peters and Sen. Ernst for their leadership on this critical issue and stand ready to work them to swiftly advance bipartisan solutions.”

“ASHP strongly supports the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Risk Assessment Act of 2023,” said Tom Kraus, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Vice President of Government Relations. “By requiring key federal departments to perform a comprehensive risk assessment of strengths and vulnerabilities of the country’s pharmaceutical supply chain, stakeholders will be capable of making more informed decisions that will ensure Americans have continuous access to essential medicines.”