June 09, 2021

Manchin Questions HHS Secretary Becerra On U.S. Manufacturing, Drug Epidemic And Affordable Medicines For West Virginians

Video of Senator Manchin’s questions during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education hearing can be found here
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra on the importance of bringing manufacturing back to the United States, addressing substance use disorder, and ensuring low-income West Virginians have access to affordable medications.
Senator Manchin questioned Secretary Becerra on the need to bring manufacturing, specifically manufacturing of generic essential medicines, back to the United States in order to strengthen our domestic supply chain.
Senator Manchin said in part, “Secretary, the Food and Drug Administration reports that nearly 40% of finished drugs and roughly 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured abroad. Widespread shortages of personal protective equipment, the PPEs as we know, and other medical equipment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic had disastrous impacts on all of us and hospitals and consumers especially, while global shortages of semiconductors in recent months forced U.S. manufacturers to slow or halt production lines. Just yesterday, President Biden directed federal agencies to institute whole-of-government efforts to strengthen domestic competitiveness and supply chain resilience. Important to this is supporting domestic manufacturing of generic essential medicines. So, how is HHS responding to this directive to strengthen our domestic supply chain?”
Senator Manchin then questioned Secretary Becerra on the importance of combating the drug epidemic that has killed over 90,000 Americans in the past year. Senator Manchin recently reintroduced the LifeBOAT Act which would establish a stewardship fee to fund efforts to provide and expand access to substance use treatment. 
“We had 90,000 Americans die from an overdose last year, my state’s been hit the hardest. We have an average of about 70,000 to 75,000 deaths every year, we had a spike because of COVID-19. The problem that I have seen is that they are putting more and more products on the market… I introduced a piece of legislation called LifeBOAT, and all we’re doing is saying drug companies will pay one penny per milligram production fee if they are going to make opioids…And every penny of that goes into treatment centers so every part of our nation will have treatment centers to help people,” Senator Manchin continued.
Senator Manchin ended his questioning by asking Secretary Becerra about the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which helps ensure low-income Americans and West Virginians are able to access affordable medications through their providers.
Senator Manchin continued, “The 340B program is essential for providing access to safe and affordable medications for low-income West Virginians and low-income Americans all over our country. Recently, HHS determined that six pharmaceutical companies have violated the program by restricting access to contract pharmacies. The undermining of the 340B program by pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers has taken its toll on West Virginia’s hospitals, community health centers and their contract pharmacy partners and I’m sure every state has been hit with this. What are the next steps you will take as head of HHS to ensure the integrity of the 340B program?”
A video of Senator Manchin’s questions during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education hearing can be found here.

A timeline of Senator Manchin’s efforts to address the drug epidemic in West Virginia can be found here.