Feb 24, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus stress tests drug industry's dependence on China

A Hong Kong commuter wears a face mask. Photo: Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It's unclear whether the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus will actually result in prescription drug shortages, but it has undoubtedly highlighted the potential vulnerabilities of having the supply chain for American drugs so dependent on China.

Driving the news: About 150 prescription drugs — including antibiotics, generics and some branded drugs without alternatives — are at risk of shortage if the coronavirus outbreak in China worsens, per two sources familiar with a list of at-risk drugs compiled by the Food and Drug Administration.

  • China is a huge supplier of the ingredients used to make drugs that are sold in the U.S.
  • The FDA declined to comment on the list, but said in a statement that it's "keenly aware that the outbreak could impact the medical product supply chain" and has devoted additional resources toward identifying vulnerabilities to U.S. medical products.

What they're saying: In response to Axios' reporting, Sen. Josh Hawley will today send a letter to the FDA calling the degree of U.S. reliance on China for drugs "inexcusable."

  • "It is becoming clear to me that both oversight hearings and additional legislation are necessary to determine the extent of our reliance on Chinese production and protect our medical product supply chain," Hawley writes.

Flashback: Lawmakers have voiced concern before. Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo and Adam Schiff — who chair the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee and the Intelligence Committee, respectively — wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last year.

  • "Depending on any single supplier for such lifesaving goods would be troubling, but when that supplier is China at a time of rising tensions and conflict, it's a national security issue that demands the attention of the administration and Congress," they wrote.

Go deeper: CDC will have flu surveillance labs test for coronavirus

Go deeper

China's coronavirus outbreak prompts congressional scrutiny of health supply chain

Management personnel checks the production of medicine in a workshop of Youcare Pharmaceutical Group Co. in Beijing. Photo: Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via Getty Images

The spotlight that the coronavirus has shone on our reliance on China for American drugs and medical devices has already prompted lawmakers to act.

Driving the news: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) both plan to introduce bills aimed at safeguarding the supply chain.

Go deeperArrowFeb 27, 2020 - Health

Drugmakers warn of medication shortages from coronavirus

Tourists with face masks walk through Union Square in New York City on Feb. 28. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Some of the largest drugmakers — including AstraZeneca, Merck and Pfizer — have said that the coronavirus outbreak could affect their supplies or sales, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Between the lines: Drug shortages can end up being incredibly serious for patients, but they're not good for business either.

Go deeperArrowMar 2, 2020 - Health

Brace for coronavirus supply shocks

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Products from major American companies including Apple, GM, Coca-Cola and even Facebook may soon become unavailable, as the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak backs up and shuts down global supply chains.

Why it matters: Consumers should brace themselves for products to go missing in the coming weeks and months — and it may not be the ones they expect.