Exclusive — Tom Cotton: Bring Back ‘Life-Saving’ Pharmaceutical Manufacturing from China to America

US Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) walks out of a senate luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 22, 2019. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told Breitbart News Daily on Friday his legislation serves as a “long-term” solution to bringing back pharmaceutical manufacturing to America.

Cotton spoke to Breitbart News Daily host Alex Marlow about his and Rep. Mike Gallagher’s (R-WI) Protecting our Pharmaceutical Supply Chain from China Act, which would end America’s dependence on China for pharmaceutical manufacturing.

He told Breitbart News Daily that China is primarily responsible for the coronavirus outbreak, and that means the must reduce its reliance on China for producing “critical goods.” Cotton continued:

Occasionally, we see people laying blame on politicians for this virus. Some folks want to blame politicians for this virus. Folks on CNN want to blame Donald Trump. You know, some people want to blame this or that governor for not going far enough, the same thing with the mayors. That’s not to say that any of them have made every decision correctly; none of those people are to blame for this situation. The virus is to blame and the virus is the responsibility of the Chinese Communist Party — for covering it up, for not getting ahead of it, and unleashing it all over the world,” Cotton explained. “That’s why we have to have a reckoning with China, and we have got to stop our dependence on China, especially for critical goods. It’s one thing to have lawn furniture or toys made in China; it’s another thing to have our most basic and essential pharmaceuticals [made in China]. Most Americans, until this virus didn’t realize that we are totally dependent on China for things like antibiotics and penicillin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, so that has to change.

China produces an overwhelming majority of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used for drugs in America. This includes 95 percent of imports of ibuprofen, 70 percent of acetaminophen, and 40-45 percent of penicillin.

Axios reported that the coronavirus outbreak has jeopardized the American supply of roughly 150 pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, generics, and brand-name drugs. Some of these drugs do not have alternatives on the market.

China exports 97 percent of all antibiotics and 80 percent of active ingredients used to make drugs in America. America is losing its ability to make pharmaceuticals because of Chinese dumping of low-price products into the global market.

Cotton said that his legislation would bring back American manufacturing to the United States.

“First, it both creates a market for U.S.-made pharmaceuticals by saying that federal government agencies that purchase drugs: Medicare, Medicaid, the military, the VA [Veterans Affairs Department], and others can only buy American-made products,” he explained.

“It gives incentives to build that manufacturing capability here, so, for instance, it lets them write off the expense of building a new factory in terms of the building structures and so forth.”

Cotton added, “But then it also has the stick that says: if you’re in China, you’re going to have to get out. Period. So that’s just the most urgent and critical need to bring back life-saving manufacturing from China.”

 The legislation would:

  • Track active pharmaceutical ingredients by requiring that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) create a registry of all drugs and corresponding API that are produced outside the country and are determined to be essential to the health and safety of Americans. 
  • Prohibit purchases from China by mandating that the Health and Human Services (HHS), Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and other federally qualified facilities purchase pharmaceutical products that have no APIs that are produced in China. 
  • Create transparency in the American medical supply chain by stipulating that drug companies list the APIs and their countries of origin on the labels of imported and domestically-produced finished products. 
  • Provide incentives for manufacturing in the United States by allowing domestic companies to expense costs associated with expanded pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturers within the country.

Cotton cautioned the country’s roadmap to becoming independent from China would have to “be much broader” than just his proposal.

“We can’t continue to depend on China for anything that is critical for our nation,” he said.

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. Eastern.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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