If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that Americans should never again be dependent on another country for life-saving medicines or the key ingredients to make them.
But there is a problem. The pharmaceutical industry’s tendency to outsource to the lowest cost solution, regardless of location, has left our nation dangerously reliant on unstable international supply chains. The current pandemic and recent events such as the six-day blockage of the Suez Canal earlier this year highlight the need for an immediate change of course.
Americans spent $535 billion on prescription drugs in 2018, an increase of 50% since 2010. And we’ve experienced shortages of critical medicines for more than a decade before the pandemic hit our shores.
The reality is that drug shortages are not rare in the United States. In fact, they are routine. As of this month, approximately 147 drug shortages or active ingredient shortages were listed on the Food and Drug Administration website.
Worst yet, we allowed this situation to happen. Only 28% of active pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured domestically, an issue exacerbated by the critical drug shortage in the early days of COVID-19.
But how did we get here? The U.S. began offshoring drug manufacturing decades ago, with the trend beginning in the 1970s, putting profit ahead of public health. Our overreliance on foreign nations – particularly China and India – for the vital active ingredients needed to create the medicines we rely on has made us vulnerable. And when there are shortages, doctors are often forced to switch to available but lesser-known or less effective drugs.
What we need is the ability to break through this self-inflicted crisis. And that can only happen if the federal government and major industry players harness localizable solutions that can be implemented and scaled quickly.
Fundamentally, we must make room for new disruptive technologies to enter the playing field. And those technologies exist.
For example, Bright Path Labs – members of the FDA’s Emerging Technology Program – is a young, advanced drug development and manufacturing company with patented AI-enabled continuous flow technology capable of affordably and efficiently producing small batches of key ingredients, specialized medicines and orphan drugs to treat patients with rare diseases.
However, companies like Bright Path Laboratories need stable funding and lasting support to enable their innovative technologies to fully scale. They also need collaborative partnerships with industry leaders. We’ve invented it here. Let’s build on that progress to truly manufacture here.
Fortunately, while we appear to be winning the war against COVID-19, it has come at a very high price. We must invest now, and we must invest in ourselves – especially while this life-threatening experience is fresh in the minds of our elected officials, industry and communities across America. Otherwise, the next global pandemic may be the one that breaks us and devastates the most vulnerable among us.
Americans are better than that. Let’s prove it.
Tony Quinones is the CEO of Bright Path Laboratories, Inc . which uses a revolutionary and patented AI-powered continuous-flow manufacturing technology to make and scale molecules faster, more efficiently, and less expensively than traditional and outdated vat-to-vat-to-vat batch techniques used by most of the global industry. Bright Path Labs is committed to delivering more agile, less expensive, highly adaptable, and safe medicines for all Americans.