Feb 27, 2020 - Health

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.

Details: Rubio's bill would require drugmakers to report to the Food and Drug Administration the volume of their drug's ingredients derived from each source, which would give the FDA a clearer picture of how reliant drugs are on Chinese products.

  • The bill also would create federal financing guarantees to American businesses producing critical medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and equipment in the U.S.
  • And it would temporarily increase the tax deduction for business capital expenditures on medical equipment and facilities related to the coronavirus.

Hawley's legislation would require medical device manufacturers to report predicted shortages to the FDA, and would give the FDA additional authorities in the event of an expected shortage.

  • It also would give the FDA more authority to request information from drug and device makers about their manufacturing capacity.

The bottom line: Old fears about our medical supplies' dependence on China have been given new urgency.

Go deeper: The coronavirus is infecting everything in the energy sector

Go deeper

Special status for coronavirus drug caught health officials off guard

President Trump and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When an experimental coronavirus treatment received a special designation from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday, it came as a surprise to the government's top health care officials — including the FDA commissioner.

Why it matters: Top officials aren't normally involved in everyday regulatory decisions. But this particular designation was particularly controversial, as critics quickly questioned whether it was giving an unfair financial advantage to one drugmaker in the midst of a pandemic.

Go deeperArrowMar 26, 2020 - Health

Why TikTok and Huawei are in lawmakers' sights

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Policymakers in D.C. are targeting a handful of specific Chinese-owned companies as they try to thread the needle between protecting U.S. security and avoiding wider disruption of the two nations' interdependent economies.

The big picture: A new wave of proposals in Congress is turning TikTok, Huawei and other specific companies into proxies in Washington's broader power struggle with Beijing.

New Prisma Health device expands ventilator support to four patients

Hospital doctors being instructed to handle a ventilator. Photo: Axel Heimken/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Prisma Health, the largest nonprofit health group in South Carolina, announced Wednesday that it's developed a device that will enable one ventilator to support up to four patients being treated for the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: Ventilators are critical in helping patients in the most severe cases of COVID-19 to breathe. But they're in short supply as demand grows, with the number of coronavirus cases increasing as U.S. testing capacity expands. The virus had killed more than 1,000 people and infected 69,000 others in the U.S. by late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowMar 26, 2020 - Health