The American Medical Product Supply Chain: Will COVID-19 Drive Manufacturing Back Home?

Beth Weinman, Gregory H. Levine, Jenna McCarthy & Grant Sims


As the COVID-19 pandemic roiled the global economy, significant disruptions to the flow of goods and raw materials between countries emerged. Serious medical product shortages exposed the degree to which the United States relies on foreign suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), finished pharmaceuticals, and other indispensable medical products and components. Concern about the fragility of medical product supply chains has generated rare bipartisan consensus, as policymakers of all stripes have called for measures to reduce the country’s heavy dependence on foreign manufacturers. This Article begins by briefly discussing the root causes that have led many drug companies, API manufacturers, and device makers to move their operations abroad. It then outlines the potential national security and public health risks posed by the nation’s significant dependence on foreign pharmaceutical and medical device suppliers. The Article also reviews measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic to address medical product shortages, and how the pandemic has highlighted the need for comprehensive, long-term solutions to over-reliance on foreign medical product manufacturing. The Article then addresses both scrutiny and funding to address supply chain fragility will continue after COVID-19 is no longer an immediate threat.