April 08, 2020

Senator Hassan, Colleagues Call for Action to Prevent Counterfeiting, Price Gouging of Medical Supplies Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today led a group of colleagues in urging President Donald Trump to act to prevent price gouging, as well as fraudulent and counterfeit supplies, which are hampering efforts to treat patients and combat the spread of COVID-19.

 

“Every day, profiteers and scam artists are taking advantage of desperate buyers and the unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment by charging obscene prices and selling counterfeit or fraudulent goods,” the Senators wrote. “Local and state governments, health care providers, first responders, and affected critical industries are scrambling to find new or additional sources of this equipment and, even worse, competing against each other for dwindling supplies.” 

 

“When those buyers, struggling to replace their diminishing stocks, are forced to turn to international suppliers outside their accustomed channels and dubious third-party brokers, Americans are less safe,” the Senators continued. “When health care providers pay outrageous, marked-up prices for personal protective equipment, only to discover that they purchased counterfeit items, those providers cannot safely and effectively do their jobs.”

 

The Senators called for President Trump to develop a comprehensive, efficient, and nationwide strategy designed to ensure that quality medical supplies are produced and effectively distributed to areas of critical need. They also urged the President to direct law enforcement and regulatory agencies to swiftly investigative claims of price gouging and counterfeiting.

 

In addition to Senator Hassan, the letter was signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Doug Jones (D-AL), Angus King (I-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

 

The letter is part of Senator Hassan’s ongoing efforts to address the shortage of medical supplies. The Senator has repeatedly called on the President to fully exercise his authorities under the Defense Production Act in an effective manner to get supplies to states. Senator Hassan and the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation have also pushed for additional medical supplies for New Hampshire, including a recent letter to FEMA and HHS expressing deep concerns over the agencies’ poor response to New Hampshire’s call for medical supplies and a letter that Governor Sununu joined the Congressional Delegation in sending that urged President Trump to speed up the distribution and production of critical medical supplies.

 

To read the text of the letter, click here or see below:

  

Dear President Trump:

 

We write today to bring your attention to the serious impact that price gouging, as well as fraudulent and counterfeit goods, are having on our country’s ability to treat patients and combat the spread of the COVID-19. We urge you to swiftly exercise the authorities at your disposal to improve distribution channels, prevent fraud, and better protect patients, health care providers, first responders, critical infrastructure workers, and all Americans.

 

Every day, profiteers and scam artists are taking advantage of desperate buyers and the unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment by charging obscene prices and selling counterfeit or fraudulent goods. Local and state governments, health care providers, first responders, and affected critical industries are scrambling to find new or additional sources of this equipment and, even worse, competing against each other for dwindling supplies.

 

When those buyers, struggling to replace their diminishing stocks, are forced to turn to international suppliers outside their accustomed channels and dubious third-party brokers, Americans are less safe. When health care providers pay outrageous, marked-up prices for personal protective equipment, only to discover that they purchased counterfeit items, those providers cannot safely and effectively do their jobs.

 

We implore you to exercise the strong manufacturing and supply channel oversight needed to keep profiteers and counterfeiters from taking advantage of vulnerable Americans. In addition to improving the integrity and oversight of personal protective equipment distribution to free the national supply chain of counterfeit items, we also urge you to protect Americans by directing national law enforcement and regulatory agencies to swiftly investigate allegations of counterfeiting and price-gouging.

 

Your executive orders of March 18 and March 23, 2020 delegated authority to a number of executive branch officials to take actions to prevent hoarding and to determine the “proper nationwide priorities and allocation of all health and medical resources, including controlling the distribution of such materials […] in the civilian market.” The voluntary support from industry and manufacturers that your administration has largely relied upon thus far is an important initial step, and we are heartened by American businesses that are stepping up and working to meet the challenge. However, in this crisis, volunteerism can neither equal nor replace a comprehensive, efficient, and nationwide strategy designed to ensure that quality medical supplies are produced and effectively distributed to areas of critical need.

 

We, therefore, respectfully urge that you develop a response that strategically manufactures, allocates, and distributes medical supplies so as to prevent the introduction of counterfeit or fraudulent personal protective equipment into the supply chain, prevent profiteering and price gouging, and ensure that our local, state, and federal governments are all working together to fight the pandemic, rather than being forced into competing with one another for critical medical supplies.

 

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