Feb 23, 2020 - Health

Scoop: Coronavirus threatens shortages of about 150 drugs

A medical worker in Beijing. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

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, according to two sources familiar with a list of at-risk drugs compiled by the Food and Drug Administration.

Why it matters: China is a huge supplier of the ingredients used to make drugs that are sold in the U.S. If the virus decreases China's production capability, Americans who rely on the drugs made from these ingredients could be in trouble.

What they're saying: 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 potential vulnerabilities to U.S. medical products stemming specifically from the outbreak.

  • The agency has been in contact with hundreds of drug and medical device manufacturers, and it's also coordinating with global regulators like the European Medicines Agency.
  • It pointed out that there aren't any vaccines, gene therapies or blood derivatives licensed by the FDA that are manufactured in China, although raw materials for many products do come from China and other southeastern Asian countries. The agency is in contact with biologics manufacturers to monitor supply concerns.
  • "If a potential shortage or disruption of medical products is identified by the FDA, we will use all available tools to react swiftly and mitigate the impact to U.S. patients and health care professionals," said an FDA spokesperson.

The intrigue: FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn is not a member of the task force that the administration has assembled to handle the coronavirus. Only two of the dozen members of the task force are physician-scientists, BioCentury noted on Friday.

  • Politico reported Friday night that the White House is worried about how the coronavirus outbreak could shape President Trump's re-election prospects, and some administration officials are concerned that the virus is already spreading within the U.S., undetected.

The bottom line: Whether or not the coronavirus spreads within the U.S., any potential drug shortages would be felt acutely by the American patients that rely on them.

Go deeper: Coronavirus outbreak fuels concerns about pharma's global supply chain

Go deeper

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.

Go deeperArrowFeb 24, 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.

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