WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As Chinese manufacturers shut down plants to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, the Food and Drug Administration last week reported the first drug shortage linked to the outbreak.
The FDA has tried to tamp down on fears of shortages and so far won’t identify the name of the drug that is in scant supply.
“That’s crazy,” said Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen. “The FDA and the administration more generally ought to be upfront with the public.”
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling people not to buy face masks and other protective gear for fear that medical professionals won’t have access to what they need. The U.S. surgeon general used Twitter over the weekend to echo that message.
Lawmakers say the nation is ill-prepared for the threat of an outbreak and that federal health officials need to make changes.
“With China not producing drugs, we are at risk,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said. “There’s a real danger that we will encounter shortfalls of these vital antibiotics.”
He has introduced legislation that would give the government power to collect data from drug and medical supply manufacturers to prevent future scares.
“This legislation would help secure those supply chains,” he explained. “We’ll make sure the FDA has advanced warning of any potential shortages and can take any sort of proactive action they need to.”
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn agrees the agency needs stronger enforcement tools and more resources to better monitor shortages.
The White House insists supply chains are under control. To underline the point, President Donald Trump met Monday with executives from major drug companies to discuss preparation for the virus. That meeting was initially supposed to be about prescription drug prices.