Coastal Georgia’s representative in the U.S. House is teaming up with a senator from South Carolina to combat future shortages of medicines and essential medical supplies.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, are sponsoring the MADE In America Act.

The act would create a new tax incentive in specially designated Opportunity Zones to draw pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the United States.

Carter said the act would make the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain less dependent on foreign countries, an issue sparking national debate the past two months as hospitals and emergency care workers struggled with supply shortages. Hospitals like Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick found themselves asking the public for donations of masks and other protective medical gear.

It’s no secret why manufacturers prefer to produce products on foreign soil, but it’s time to bring them back to the U.S., Carter said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more clear than ever that America cannot continue to rely on foreign entities like China for anything, especially when it comes to lifesaving medications,” Carter said. “The reason our pharmaceutical and medical supply chains are dependent on nations like China and India is simple. They can produce cheaper factories, provide lower-cost labor, utility costs and raw materials, impose fewer regulations, and more.”

A lot of formerly American industries have taken advantage of the lower production costs available overseas.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 72 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) used in the U.S. drug supply are manufactured in more than 150 countries. Thirteen percent comes from China alone.

The goal of the Manufacturing API, Drugs, and Excipients (MADE) in America Act is to mitigate drug shortages by incentivizing the domestic manufacturing of drugs, API, personal protective equipment (PPE) and diagnostics.

Carter and Scott believe they can accomplish this by offering a new tax credit for manufacturers that operate in certain American Opportunity Zones.

“This legislation is designed to significantly reduce the advantage that foreign countries provide and encourage companies to maintain, expand or relocate their production activities back to the United States and its territories through a tax credit that will serve the most disadvantaged communities in our nation,” Carter said.

Carter said The MADE in America Act would address vulnerabilities in the U.S. supply chain by leveling the playing field rather than through punitive and ultimately counter-productive mandates.

The legislation also includes measures aimed at mitigating drug shortages, including improving FDA reporting of facility inspections, working more closely with overseas regulators and streamlining FDA standardization processes for overseeing pharmaceutical manufacturing and the supply chain.

Carter introduced the legislation in the House; Scott is circulating a legislative discussion draft in the Senate.

Scott said Opportunity Zones will play a critical role in the nation’s economic recovery.

“By combining the promise of Opportunity Zones and the need to bring our supply chains back home, MADE in America is a two for one deal that will make our nation stronger for years to come,” Scott said.

Opportunity Zones would include the territory of Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria disrupted the manufacture of IV solutions and other critical medical supplies when it smashed utilities and other infrastructure critical to the island nation in September 2017.

Tim Tyre, pharmacy director at Southeast Georgia Healthy System in Brunswick, said he supports legislation that would move more drug manufacturing plants to the United States.

“As a health system, we have experienced critical drug shortages due to both lack of ingredients and finished medication products from foreign countries,” Tyre said. “It would be extremely beneficial if we could produce more of each in the U.S. We have also experienced critical drug shortages of medications due to natural disasters in countries like Puerto Rico, where plants were out of service for months.”

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