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Delegate Fleischauer seeks federal critical infrastructure protection for Mylan plant

MORGANTOWN – Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, is seeking federal help in keeping the Viatris Morgantown pharmaceutical plant open.

Following the winning playbook of U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, R-Tenn., she’s written a letter to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) asking the plant be designated as critical infrastructure needed to maintain national security.

Harshbarger wrote to CISA at the beginning of this year asking that an American Antibiotics Initiative plant in Bristol, Tenn., retain its critical infrastructure status post-pandemic because it’s the nation’s only turn-key facility for the repatriation of penicillin production and therefore represents a critical national asset.

CISA wrote back to her on Feb. 4, assuring her the plant would retain its status.

Fleischauer’s letter is modeled on Harshbarger’s but is specific to the Morgantown plant.

She opens by saying the COVID pandemic has highlighted the nation’s supply chain and domestic manufacturing deficiencies. “In particular, the pandemic has taught us that over-reliance on foreign supplied raw materials and on foreign manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry is a weakness that threatens our public health and our national security.”

She reminds CISA Director Jen Easterly that President Biden recognized the importance of domestic pharmaceutical materials and manufacturing in a February executive order, and that the pharmaceutical industry is one of 16 vital infrastructure assets.

She includes a brief history of the Mylan plant – as it was known before the creation of Viatris and as the sign out front still indicates – and says, “The bright shining light Mylan has brought to our community is dimming.”

After making her request that the plant along with its standard operating procedures, various drug applications and licences, and intellectual property all be designated as critical infrastructure.

“The closure of this state-of-the-art American pharmaceutical facility,” she writes, “will be a devastating blow to our community, but more importantly, it would subvert the intention of the president to avoid the outsourcing of American jobs.” She notes the employees have been approved for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance, verifying their jobs have been outsourced (to India and Australia and possibly China, according to previous reports in The Dominion Post).

“The closure of the Viatris plant in Morgantown, W.Va., actively undermines our national security and public health interests,” Fleischauer writes.

Along with Easterly, Fleischauer copied the letter to Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, Rep. David McKinley, Gov. Jim Justice, Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch, and a number of local legislators and public officials.

Fleischauer told The Dominion Post, “With all of the news about the contamination of medications made in China and India, as well as the inability of the FDA to conduct unannounced inspections like is done in this country, this should not be a partisan issue. I have asked my colleagues who represent this city, county and the state at all levels to communicate their support of this designation of Mylan as critical infrastructure. I hope they will add their voices and communicate with Director Easterly.”

The United Steelworkers Local 8-957 brought Harshbarger’s letter to the attention of The Dominion Post in June, and we subsequently asked both Manchin and Capito if they had considered or tried this. Neither gave a direct answer on that specific item.

The connecting link between Bristol and Morgantown is David Argyle, an entrepreneur from Toronto, Canada, who was serendipitously placed to help save the Bristol plant after it had been shuttered by a generic pharmaceutical company from India that reportedly emphasized cost-saving and profit over quality.

Representing and assisting the new owner, who won it at auction, he worked with the community and government leaders who rallied together to bring the plant back to life under its new, U.S.-based owners. “Everyone stood up and did the right thing,” he said.

“The reason why only American companies could bid on it,” Argyle said, “is because we got CISA accreditation.” That prevented foreign ownership. “American pharma needs to be controlled start to finish by American companies, made in America.”

Citing Biden’s interest in protecting American pharma, he said, “I’m just confused about how Viatris … are able to ship jobs overseas when the executive supply chain order is 180 degrees the other way.”

Argyle said one of his colleagues shared with him an article about the Morgantown plant closure. “I said, ‘This is crazy.’” So he contacted USW Local 8-957 to share his successful experience in Bristol, and now has helped Fleischauer draft her letter.

CISA accreditation, Argyle said, would prevent Viatris from sending not only the jobs but the plant equipment, the procedures and drug licenses overseas.

Viatris could keep the plant open, he said. “If they can’t do it, then don’t take the opportunity away for another American group to come in and save it.”

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