April 26, 2021

Cassidy, Smith Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve U.S. Supply Chain for Critical Antibiotics

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the United States’ supply chain for critical antibiotics and address the threat of antibiotic resistance. The Onshoring Essential Antibiotics Act would provide $500 million in grants to build and improve manufacturing facilities. It would also commission a study to determine which essential antibiotics are most vulnerable to foreign supply chain disruptions, as well as allow the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to stockpile domestically produced essential antibiotics. 

“China cutting off our supply of antibiotics during a pandemic, like they did with PPE, would be catastrophic,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This legislation brings production back to the U.S., creating jobs and strengthening our defense against future outbreaks.” 

“We ought to be able to produce essential antibiotics that Americans need here on U.S. soil. This is an issue of public health and national security,” said Senator Smith. “By strengthening our country’s capacity to manufacture and store critical drugs, we’ll have more certainty and resources to promote public health during the pandemic and beyond. I’ll be working with Sen. Cassidy to move this bill forward.”

For years, the U.S. has faced shortages of generic antibiotics and the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on its supply chain vulnerabilities. Due to their lower profitability, pharmaceutical companies are less inclined to make generic antibiotics, and they seek to minimize costs by producing them overseas. The U.S. was hit by global supply chain disruptions when pharmaceutical manufacturers overseas were forced to temporarily shut down and countries restricted drug exports. 

Relying on other countries for key ingredients and finished forms of antibiotics presents additional problems for the U.S. as well. Due to the complexity of these supply chains, American hospital systems and health care practitioners often do not know where their medicine comes from, and they cannot determine potential shortages until a drug is hard to find. Additionally, when the recommended antibiotic cannot be found, providers are forced to consider less effective treatment options. Shortages of targeted antibiotics lead to more common use of antibiotics that attack many kinds of bacteria to treat infections. This contributes to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, as bacteria adapt to frequently used antibiotics.

Specifically, the Onshoring Essential Antibiotics Act would:

  • Provide $500 million in grants to improve the domestic supply chain of essential generic antibiotics by:
    • Expanding, upgrading, or recommissioning existing manufacturing facilities in the United States.
    • Constructing new manufacturing facilities in the United States.
    • Allowing the HHS Secretary to stockpile domestically produced essential antibiotics.
  • Provide $2 million for a study to determine which essential antibiotics are most vulnerable to foreign supply chain disruptions.