Lawmakers want answers from HHS on drug shortages caused by cyberattacks

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce is asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for a briefing on steps being taken to address potential drug shortages caused by cyberattacks.

Following the June 27, 2017 global cyberattack of the NotPetya malware virus, pharmaceutical firm Merck acknowledged the attack disrupted worldwide operations including manufacturing, and its second quarter financial report further noted it was continuing restoration work.

“While it has long been understood that Merck was among those infected by this malware, the revelation that it continues to affect Merck’s operations adds to the growing list of concerns about the potential consequences of cyber threats to the health care sector,” committee chair Rep. Greg Walden and subcommittee oversight chair Tim Murphy tell Price in a September 20 letter.

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Representative Thomas "Tom" Price, a Republican from Georgia and chairman of the House Budget Committee, speaks during a news conference about the House Republicans' Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal titled "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America" with other members of the budget committee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. U.S. House Republicans propose to balance the federal budget in less than 10 years by cutting spending by $5.5 trillion without raising taxes, the chamber's budget committee chairman said Tuesday in an opinion article. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Tom Price

Also See: 7 defense lessons learned from the Petya 2017 attack

The lawmakers also remind Price that the Centers for Disease Control recently noted Merck would not be distributing certain versions of the Hepatitis B vaccine. “While it is unclear whether this is related to the NotPetya disruption, and much of the supply can be filled by other manufacturers, it does raise questions about how the nation is prepared to address a significant disruption to critical medical supplies.”

Consequently, Walden and Murphy are requesting a briefing by early October on actions HHS is taking to understand and respond to cyber threats, as well as plans to address potential drug shortages or other associated consequences.

“While Merck was not the only company to suffer degraded capabilities due to the June 27 outbreak, Merck’s role as a supplier of life-saving drugs and other medical products sets its infection and subsequent manufacturing issues apart and raises the possibility of more serious consequences for the healthcare sector as a whole,” the lawmakers caution.

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