Exclusive: After pandemic, U.S. senators want review of drug supply chain

FILE PHOTO: Pharmaceutical tablets and capsules are arranged on a table in this picture illustration taken in Ljubljana August 20, 2014. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican and Democratic U.S. senators called for a government analysis of foreign influence in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain on Tuesday, saying the coronavirus pandemic has exposed an over-reliance on China and other countries for the production of essential drugs.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren will introduce the U.S. Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Review Act on Tuesday.

The bill would require the government to study the effects of relying on foreign companies and foreign investment for the production of pharmaceuticals for the U.S. market, and provide a report within one year, according to a copy of the legislation seen by Reuters.

“To defeat the current COVID-19 crisis and better equip the United States against future pandemics, we must take control of our supply chain and rely less on foreign countries for our critical drugs,” Warren said in a statement.

China is one of the countries that invests in U.S. drug companies, but the senators are also interested in getting a view of all foreign investment in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, an aide said.

Republican President Donald Trump has long pledged to bring U.S. manufacturing back from overseas, but the coronavirus and concern about dependence on imports, particularly from China, has spurred a flurry of new activity.

China overtook the United States as the world’s top manufacturing country in 2010 and was responsible for 28% of global output in 2018, according to United Nations data.

Rubio, a leading congressional proponent of tougher China policy, said the report required by the bill would provide information necessary to address supply chain vulnerabilities and reduce overreliance on China for pharmaceuticals.

The bill would require the Federal Trade Commission and the Secretary of the Treasury, acting through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), to conduct the study.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman