Curbing China's Dominance of Medical Supplies
Rosemary Gibson is senior advisor at the Hastings Center and a national authority on health care reform. In 2014, she won the highest honor from the American Medical Writers Association. She is an editor for JAMA Internal Medicine. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
Speaking to journalist Sharyl Attkisson in an April 23, 2018, interview, Gibson warned: "What happens if we have a Fukushima type event or the trade routes are blocked in the South China Sea? Or if there's a global pandemic? And the United States and virtually every other country in the world is dependent on a few companies in China for the ingredients to make critical antibiotics."
Gibson provided a detailed picture of China’s growing domination of the medical drug and equipment market in her 2018 book China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine (co-authored by Janardan Prasad Singh).
China is now the global kingpin in the supply of key ingredients for many prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements. The Chinese now control most of the active and inactive ingredients for the manufacture of medicine in the world.
Suppose your blood pressure medication is factory-made in Canada and you feel your supply line is safe. Your health is still in jeopardy because Communist China could choose to ban the export of your drug’s active ingredient to Canada.
In China Rx, Gibson and Singh lay out the facts in how drug manufacturing has experienced a paradigm shift over several decades. Communist China has followed an aggressive plan in becoming the global supplier of necessary ingredients for medicines.
Penicillin, a longstanding drug in the fight against bacterial infection, is a prime example of America’s market loss and China’s economic seizure and takeover.
Around 2004, the Chinese government had its national companies dump penicillin ingredients on the global market. Most Western countries, including the U.S., could not compete with their low prices and went bankrupt. Then China issued a major price increase on these important ingredients, thereby cornering the market and making billions.
Although the penicillin that you purchase at your local drugstore may not be manufactured in China in its final form, the keys to its production (active ingredients) are under communist control.
Forget about a vital drug like heparin, the only anticoagulant used in the U.S. for heart surgery and kidney dialysis. What about something simple, like Vitamin C?
China is now the primary supplier for the key ingredients for manufacturing this vitamin in the U.S. and around the world. Chinese companies created an artificial shortage of vitamin C around 2005 by slowing production and exports. American companies filed a class-action suit resulting in a legal battle lasting over eight years. The evidence was strong and convincing against China. The judge ordered China to pay over $160 million in damages to U.S. corporations.
The Seattle Times in June 2007 reported, “In less than a decade, China has captured 90 percent of the U.S. market for vitamin C, driving almost everyone else out of business… Chinese pharmaceutical companies also have taken over much of the world market in the production of antibiotics, analgesics, enzymes and primary amino acids. According to an industry group, China makes 70 percent of the world’s penicillin, 50 percent of its aspirin and 35 percent of its acetaminophen (often sold under the brand name Tylenol), as well as the bulk of vitamins A, B12, C and E.”
In China Rx, Gibson also reveals that China is the main supplier of the active ingredients for acetaminophen and aspirin now used in over 600 prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
How were these warning signs missed for these less-complex drugs, not to mention the more expensive heart and cancer medications?
Who is listening to Rosemary Gibson on Capitol Hill?
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), while chairing a hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on March 12, sounded the alarm concerning critical shortages in our drug supply chain, the offshoring of American drug manufacturing for two decades, and now the threat of a global pandemic.
He warned, “The inability to quickly increase the production of key supplies, such as surgical masks, medical gowns, and pharmaceutical drugs limits our ability to mitigate the worst effects of disease in this emerging crisis and in any future pandemic. It is unacceptable that China holds this much leverage over America’s public health and economy, which are both essential components of our national security.”
Thank you, Senator!