Government Control Over Manufacturing Will Hurt Development of COVID-19 Vaccines | Citizens Against Government Waste

Government Control Over Manufacturing Will Hurt Development of COVID-19 Vaccines

The WasteWatcher

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) are at it again, looking to give the government more control over the manufacturing of healthcare products and stealing intellectual property.  And everyone thought this could only happen in countries like China.

On April 30, 2020, the two members of Congress introduced the “COVID-19 Emergency Manufacturing Act,” which would authorize “the federal government to manufacture medical products, including by contracting with existing manufacturers, to ensure the nation has an adequate supply of critical materials to avoid rationing during this unprecedented crisis.  It will also help the nation begin to prepare for the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine by dramatically increasing our capacity for development and distribution.”

This bill is similar to legislation they introduced in 2018 and 2019, “The Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act,” which would establish the Office of Drug Manufacturing within the Department of Health and Human Services.  The office would manufacture generic drugs and offer them to consumers at a “fair” price.  The office would essentially be able to manufacture any drug the government wanted based on subjective criteria, even if two companies are manufacturing a drug in competition with one another.  Contrary to all prior policies, and unfortunately similar to the theft of intellectual property in China, the new office would be able to use compulsory licensing to steal whatever private manufacturers created.

Sen. Warren and Rep. Schakowsky have a very inflated and inaccurate opinion of the government’s ability to get things done.  They conveniently forget that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  delayed the production of a diagnostic test kit for COVID-19 by six weeks.  The March 16, 2020  Washington Post reported that “U.S. efforts to distribute tests ground nearly to a halt, and the country’s inability to produce them left public health officials with limited means to determine where and how fast the virus was spreading.  From mid-January until Feb. 28, fewer than 4,000 tests from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used out of more 160,000 produced.”  CNBC, among many others, reported that there was a “glaring scientific breakdown” that caused the initial kits to be contaminated.

The Post compared the U.S. government’s effort to a small Berlin-based company in Germany that came up with a diagnostic kit and produced and shipped more than 1.4 million tests by the end of February.  The owner of the Germany company said the problem in the U.S. is that it took too long to use the private sector to develop the kits.

If the country needs any critical materials, President Trump has the ability to use the Defense Production Act, which was signed into law just before the Korean War, to expedite and expand the supply of urgently-needed items using the nation’s industrial base to support the military, energy, space and homeland security programs.  Unlike big-government aficionados who prefer a Washington, D.C. solution for everything, the president has been reluctant to utilize the DPA other than on a few occasions.  Citizens Against Government Waste opposed use of the DPA during the COVID-19 pandemic, believing it was not necessary.

The pharmaceutical and medical device industries have massively geared up their research and production lines to address the COVID-19 crisis.  Congress should not waste a minute of the valuable time needed to respond to the coronavirus by considering the extreme, socialist, Warren-Schakowsky publicly manufactured drug and medical supply legislation in any upcoming emergency spending bills or at any other time.  America does not need to be more like China, where entire industries are under government control and it is considered normal to steal intellectual property.  The U.S. government needs to continue reducing regulations as it has done during this crisis, not expanding its control, and let the private sector do what it does best by producing the items Americans want and need.