The COVID-19 pandemic caught the U.S. on the back foot, scrambling to procure necessities like medicines, ventilators, and masks. It exposed the country's lopsided reliance on third-party vendors, foreign manufacturers, and other nations.
The Investor's Business Daily/TIPP Poll conducted in late June/early July asked 1,424 American adults how important a strong manufacturing base for medical drugs was to the United States' national security. The response:
- 82% Important
- 7% Not important
- 11% Unsure
Enhanced self-reliance when it comes to life-saving drugs and medical tools has garnered support from Americans across the spectrum. Backing for the idea goes into the 90s among a few demographic groups:
- 94% Seniors
- 92% $75K above income
- 92% College educated
Though outsourcing of production has significantly brought down the price of prescription drugs and medical equipment like PPE in the U.S., the move has placed America at a severe disadvantage.
Generic drugs account for 90% of prescription medications in the United States and account for 22% of total prescription medication spending in the country. Over the years, China and India have cornered a substantial share of the generic drug manufacturing sector.
Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients
The main concern and current focus are APIs, or active pharmaceutical ingredients, the primary ingredients for drugs.
The FDA estimates that 72% of API facilities for all regulated drugs and 79% for essential medicines are overseas.
“All regulated drugs” include prescription (brand and generic), OTC, and compounded drugs.
2019 WHO Essential Medicines List comprises 461 drugs that have been selected by the WHO Expert Committee to meet the most important needs in a health system. FDA matched 370 of the drugs on the WHO Essential Medicines List with products listed for the U.S. market and determined the location of the facilities used to make their APIs.
The COVID-19 curbs have brought into focus supply chain complexities, shortages, and vulnerabilities in critical areas like semiconductors, large capacity batteries, critical minerals, and pharmaceuticals.
Having faced severe shortages at the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. is now gearing up to scale up its production and supply chain capabilities regarding semiconductors, pharmaceutical drugs, and critical medical equipment.
Biden Administration Plans
Along with the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Biden administration has put forth a comprehensive series of policy recommendations that will address the key weaknesses in the drug manufacturing sector. The government plans to set aside funds and provide incentives in four critical domains:
- To boost local production
- Promote R&D that will result in innovative production technologies
- Put in systems to ensure consistency and reliability
- Leverage data to improve supply chain resilience
The steps mentioned above will, in the long run, reduce the country's dependence on others by insulating it, to a large degree, from market turbulence and variables. Though absolute self-reliance and 100% domestic production of medical drugs and equipment may not be feasible, the U.S. can take steps to reduce supply chain vulnerabilities and problematic shortages in the future. Instead of placing all eggs in one basket, the U.S. will likely shop around for medical equipment and pharmaceutical drugs with a larger number of countries spread across various geopolitical zones. This would help reduce the bargaining power of any one country and ensure fewer supply chain disruptions caused by political or regional tensions.
The pharmaceutical industry and the health sector stand to benefit significantly from private-public partnerships. Such collaborations will also achieve the goal of a resilient pharma sector faster. Improved transparency and broader powers for the Department of Health and Human Services will allow the state to stay on top of meeting unexpected demands and plan for contingencies.
Swifter drug approval processes, financial support like tax credits, and a well-defined "made in America" policy are on the pharmaceutical industry's wish list. Fostering a competitive domestic market and incentivizing the production of less profitable drugs in the country promises a secure future for all Americans in the long run.
Raghavan Mayur edited the story.
The United States and China may share similar interests when it comes to the issue of denuclearizing North Korea.
State Department spokesman Ned Price made the remarks as Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is set to visit China for discussions on issues that will include ways to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear and provocative ballistic missile programs.
Mr. Price said, "there is room for, at the very least, discussion with the PRC when it comes to the challenge posed by the DPRK's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its other threatening activity."
He said the U.S. would also continue to seek to improve human rights and humanitarian conditions in impoverished North Korea while noting that the U.S. currently does not have plans to share its COVID-19 vaccines with North Korea.
Affected services included Airbnb, UPS, HSBC bank, British Airways, and the PlayStation network
Visitors attempting to reach some sites received DNS errors, meaning their requests could not reach the websites.
Internet outage monitoring platform DownDetector had reported thousands of problems from its users across dozens of platforms.
Some websites began to appear again for users in Europe and the U.S., while others in Asian nations continued to report problems.
A bipartisan group of 13 U.S. senators has introduced a resolution calling to establish a partnership program between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan's defense forces.
U.S. senators Rick Scott, Tammy Duckworth, and John Cornyn were among the lawmakers who introduced the legislation, titled the Taiwan partnership act, in the U.S. Senate.
The non-binding measure calls for increasing exchanges between defense officials and military personnel of the two nations to enhance Taiwan's reserve forces and improve interoperability among its military branches.
The National Guard is "ideally suited" to partner with Taiwan in areas such as emergency response, cyber defense, education, cultural exchanges, and advisory programs, Senator Duckworth said.
The European Union is counting on electric vehicles to help it meet its climate goals. But, as demand for e-cars soars, certain raw materials are running short.
The European Commission has estimated that to meet its climate neutrality goals, which would rely heavily on e-mobility, the E.U. would need up to 18 times more lithium by 2030 and 60 times more by 2050.
Currently, only 10% of the lithium contained in electric car batteries is recycled. Given the soaring demand and finite supplies, the E.U. has formulated ambitious new recycling targets under which 70% of the lithium must be recovered from the batteries by 2030.
Lithium makes up about 0.0007% of the world's crust, and although it was added to the E.U.'s list of critical raw materials in 2020, it isn't considered rare.
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