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Shaheen Leads Letter Urging Relief around Abbott Baby Formula Contract Constraints for New England States amid Shortages

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today sent a letter to Abbott Laboratories CEO Robert Ford along with Senators representing New England states, urging him to provide relief to state WIC programs and the mothers they serve.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont jointly contract with Abbott to provide WIC recipients with access to formula – mothers across the region are being hurt by the recent recall and ongoing shortages. Since February, Abbott has provided very short-term relief to our states in need of formula. In response, the Senators are pushing for a long-term extension of rebates across all infant formulas through the rest of the year without unnecessary directives.

“Mothers in our states have been left to scrounge to find formula for their infants, traveling longer and longer distances only to find empty shelves. According to the most recent data, more than 40% of stores in our states are currently out of stock of infant formula. This situation is especially untenable for low-income mothers, who do not have the time or resources to enable them to access this depleted supply. Given that WIC is expressly intended to support low-income families and that this supply crisis is a direct result of contamination at an Abbott facility, Abbott must ensure states have sufficiently flexible WIC contract obligations during this time,” the Senators wrote. “In total, nearly 40,000 infants in our states’ WIC programs are either partially or fully formula-fed, and our states are restricted to Abbott-only formulas due to these contract obligations.”

They continued: “With this in mind, we strongly urge Abbott to extend rebates across all infant formulas at least through the duration of this year, without restrictions across products and without unnecessary directives on which products to prefer. Similarly, once safety concerns over Abbott infant formulas have been remedied, Abbott should work with states to ensure WIC recipients and families trust in Abbott products before removing rebates for competitive products.”

The letter is also signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI) Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Angus King (I-ME).

Full text of the letter is available here.

Shaheen recently cosponsored legislation that’s now law to require formula manufacturers to plan for shortages and make sure moms and babies who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC have the formula they need. Shaheen also joined a letter urging President Biden to immediately assign a coordinator within the White House on infant formula to address the shortage and implement a national strategy to increase the resilience of the infant formula supply chain and protect against future contamination and shortages.