Kennedy & Konduros: Made in America Act would improve access to medicines, provide jobs in SC

October 19, 2020


Patients in the US have faced drug shortages for years. This was illustrated amid the current pandemic, which was exacerbated by shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment), testing ingredients and drugs required for COVID-19 treatment. 

Although America remains the world’s top innovator in life sciences, it dramatically lags countries such as China and India in the manufacture of antibiotics, active pharmaceutical ingredients formulated into tablets, capsules and medicines (API), vitamin C, many medical devices, and PPE.

While South Carolina reaps extraordinary benefits from foreign investment by international manufacturers, returning the manufacturing and sourcing of life sciences products to our country and state is not only a powerful economic driver – it’s a path to national and global stability. 

Sen. Tim Scott is championing draft legislation that would help bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the US. The Manufacturing API, Drugs, and Excipients (MADE) in America Act would incentivize pharmaceutical and PPE manufacturing in designated “Opportunity Zones,” using tax credits to encourage production of vital products and ingredients in America. With 135 eligible Opportunity Zones in South Carolina, thousands of acres could be leveraged for this powerful growth opportunity.

Scott’s legislation would bolster the domestic pharmaceutical supply chain, create new high-paying jobs here, and help our life sciences industry ensure that South Carolina patients can access the care they need. It would improve FDA reporting of facility inspections, tighten relationships with overseas regulators, and streamline the FDA standardization processes for overseeing pharmaceutical manufacturing to help mitigate drug shortages.

Opportunity Zones are already changing the face of America, lifting traditionally underserved areas, and delivering positive impacts here at home. The recent announcement of 1,400 new jobs and a $314-million high-tech agribusiness investment was catalyzed by an opportunity zone in Hampton County, one of South Carolina’s most poverty-stricken and rural locations.

Another powerful testament is Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., one of America’s fastest-growing drug companies, which thrives in a Lexington County Opportunity Zone. The company moved to South Carolina from Florida just over five years ago, and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars while creating almost 2,000 full and part-time jobs here.

The company also produces its own FDA-approved hand sanitizer and runs a CLIA-certified lab through which thousands of people have been tested for the virus. In a newly announced expansion, Nephron will focus on manufacturing vaccines and hard-to-source antibiotics. Across the Palmetto State and America, companies like Nephron are answering the call to serve.

With more than 650 companies employing more than 43,000 citizens in 43 of SC’s 46 counties, the booming life sciences industry’s $12 billion annual economic impact shows its ability to help lead our state’s economic recovery. More than 70 firms stepped up to develop vital solutions to the COVID-19 crisis – from managing vaccine trials to producing respiratory therapies, test kits, hand sanitizer and PPE.

These dynamic companies are helping South Carolina patients access new and innovative therapies, from treatments for the common cold to medications for life-threatening diseases such as COVID-19. The fact that the MADE in America Act would generate new life sciences jobs in economically disadvantaged areas across our state is better still, especially at a time when unemployment rates are well above pre-pandemic levels.

While South Carolina bioscience companies will continue to develop innovative treatments, we need policies that encourage and incentivize domestic production to ensure that patients never again worry about being able to access over-the-counter remedies or specialized prescriptions. Reliance on overseas pharmaceutical manufacturing has taught us an important lesson: America needs a greater level of independence in production of vital life sciences products and ingredients.

Despite the many adverse effects of COVID-19 on our nation, this renewed national strategy for onshoring and repatriating of PPE, prescription drug manufacturing and production of active pharmaceutical ingredients has created an unprecedented economic opportunity for America and South Carolina – and reduces risk of having to rely on an uncertain global supply chain.

The MADE in America Act would help South Carolinians access critical medicines, add high-paying jobs here, and encourage companies like Nephron to do what they do best – innovate, grow, and improve untold lives.

Lou Kennedy is the CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals and chair of the SCBIO Board of Directors. Sam Konduros is the president and CEO of SCBIO, the South Carolina biotechnology industry organization.