Addressing the Critical Shortage of Medical Supplies

Concurrent Session Block 4: 1:15 – 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday, September 17


Assuring Essential Medical Supplies during a Pandemic: Markets, Mandates, Coordination and the Law
Federal law anticipates that emergencies can generate sudden demand for medical equipment. Federal agencies have ample legal authority to respond to shortages, but also the duty and the authority to prepare for emergencies by planning, supply-chain monitoring, investment and partnership with the private sector, and stockpiling. Perhaps the most important federal law for preventing and ameliorating shortages, and the primary focus of this session, is the federal Defense Production Act (“DPA”). The DPA provides a menu of powers to stimulate production, strengthen supply chains, coordinate expertise, and resolve market failures. Although the shortfall in personal protective equipment and other basic medical equipment was anticipated by planners and demonstrated in simulation exercises, federal action to address the problem in the face of the pandemic have landed somewhere between failing and making matters worse. This session will examine how the federal response has failed and will present recommendations for addressing these failures.

  • Scott Burris, J.D., Professor of Law, Temple Law School and Director, Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University
  • Evan Anderson, JD, PhD, Senior Fellow, Center for Public Health Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania

COVID-19: State and Local Responses to PPE Shortages
In mid-March, health care workers on social media and elsewhere sounded the alarm: #GetMePPE. This public plea was in response to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at many hospitals, coinciding with surges in hospital emergency department and intensive care unit capacity due to COVID-19. Within days, the Strategic National Stockpile of PPE was depleted; states, localities, and hospitals had to act urgently to procure PPE and reuse or extend the use of existing PPE. A true cottage industry emerged, consisting of a network of designers, makers, engineers, and health care workers focused on designing and producing high-quality PPE to address urgent needs. This session will provide a review of the actions taken by the FDA in response to the PPE shortage, the impact of local manufacturing of PPE in one US state (Massachusetts), and solutions for federal and state policymakers to ensure robust state and community-level responses to shortages in the future.

  • Michael S. Sinha, MD, JD, MPH, Harvard Medical School Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Science