Americans deserve publicly owned generic drugs, says Dana Brown, Director of The Next System Project at The Democracy Collaborative, a research and development lab for the democratic economy.
In her op-ed, punished on The Orange Leader, she says, “Bold policies could have saved America’s largest generic drug plant, but it’s never too late to start putting communities first.”
In late July, Viatris’ pharmaceutical plant in Morgantown, West Virginia, which developed generic drugs, was closed down.
The company employed nearly 1,500 people and was the largest remaining generic pharmaceutical plant in the U.S. The company shuts down and lays off its workers in pursuit of bigger profits.
Earlier in August, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said, “I think it’s pitiful, pitiful, absolutely pitiful that our federal government at this time, with something as critical as pharmaceuticals are to our citizens, is just deciding to sit on the sideline and let this catastrophe happen.”
The shutdown could have been uniquely prevented if “there had been federal or state action premised on prioritizing protecting public health and economic wellbeing over short-term shareholder returns,” Brown writes.
“We had the tools,” she added, “All that was lacking was the boldness and the political will to use them.”
The plant’s then-owner, Mylan merged with Upjohn (a division of Pfizer) to form a new company, Viatris, creating the opportunity to develop generic drugs. Not long after, Viatris announced a “restructuring initiative” that included shuttering some of its plants, including the Morgantown facility, according to Brown.
The United Steelworkers represented many of the plant’s workers and started petitioning both the incoming Biden administration and state officials to keep the plant open. They argued that the company plays a key role in the country’s pharmaceutical supply chain, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Morgantown plant produced nearly 18 billion doses of low-cost generic drugs a year.
The Steelworkers and other health care and advocacy group issued a letter to the Biden administration, calling for using the Defense Production Act to stop the closure of the plant.
One of Biden’s first executive orders called for using the law if necessary for “acquiring additional stockpiles, improving distribution systems, building market capacity, or expanding the industrial base,” according to Brown. But like the Trump administration, the Biden administration did none of these things in Morgantown.
Brown says keeping the plant open would have been a clear case of assuring local distribution and manufacturing of an essential good: generic drugs. To know more about what Brown has to say, check the article titled “Americans deserve publicly owned generic drugs,” published in The Orange Leader.