Over the past 30 years, a lot of drug manufacturing has been offshore, with generics comprising 90% of the medicines Americans consume. There is a growing reliance on China for essential drugs. The US no longer makes penicillin, for example, with the last US penicillin plant closing in 2004
Using Medicines as Leverage for Global Power
The country that controls medicines controls the world.
If China stopped exporting ingredients to the US, within three months all the pharmacies would be empty.
Guy Villax CEO Hovione
U.S. has virtually no manufacturing capacity to make generic antibiotics
Because China makes the key ingredients, the U.S. can’t make generics antibiotics for:
- Anthrax exposure
- Strep throat
- Ear infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Lyme disease
- Tooth infections
- And much more
China Controls 80% of the Key Ingredients in World’s Medicines
China makes about 80% of the world’s active pharmaceutical ingredients, chemical intermediates, and raw materials for medicines.
The United States Doesn’t Make
The last U.S. penicillin plant closed in 2004.
Chinese companies are required by law to fix prices and control supply to the U.S.
Here is how we lost our manufacturing of Vitamin C
There has been an ongoing court case that went to the supreme court. A handful of Chinese companies came in and, once again, dumped really cheap ingredients to make ascorbic acid. This drove out all the producers in the United States and around the world. There were a handful of companies that challenged this, saying this is antitrust, against our laws. So in a federal court in Brooklyn, a jury saw this for what it was. There was unequivocal evidence. There was no dispute that the Chinese companies fixed prices and controlled the supply of vitamin C to the U.S. There was a settlement that the Chinese companies had to pay. That was not the end of it. The Chinese companies appealed in federal court. Here was their argument — and the Chinese government actually came to U.S. federal court to put in a brief, and said we required our companies, as a matter of Chinese law, to fix prices and control the supply of ascorbic acid and vitamin C to the U.S.
Here is what members of congress can do
First, they need to have accurate information. They should ask why is that chemotherapy drugs are in shortage? They need to get the real deal. Not just that we are having trouble with our suppliers. If the product was banned by the FDA because it had huge issues of integrity of their product, members of congress should know that. There was a plant in China that exploded, and it exploded because the workers were not handling the chemicals right and that triggered a global shortage of an antibiotic to treat a life-threatening infection called sepsis. Members of congress should know that. We have a shortage of heparin, a blood thinner. We get so much of the raw material to make heparin from China.
The second thing that needs to be done is let’s get rid of the red tape. Make it much easier for the department of defense, our military, and the VA to find alternative suppliers, trustworthy customers — companies, who want to make quality medicines for our military at a fair price and sign long-term contracts for that, so our military and veterans do not have to go without. and that will support manufacturing to come back home, revitalize communities, and bring jobs back. – Rosemary Gibson, Senior Advisor to the Hastings Center
“The national security risks of increased Chinese dominance of the global active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) market cannot be overstated.”
– Christopher Priset, Department of Defense
It is a huge national security issue
Think of what you could do with medicines in a geopolitical context. If you control the supply of penicillin, if you are the dominant use of antibiotics, you can withhold those. You can contaminate them. You can make them look like medicine and have nothing in them. If you want to destabilize a country and demoralize a population really quickly, all you have to do is withhold medicine.
“My blood-pressure medications were contaminated with rocket fuel. I imagine active people have the same problem. This affects the readiness of our troops.” – Dr. Larry Wortzel, Retired Army Colonel
“Part of my mission on this issue is to make sure that these supply chains are delivering what we need and the epiphany I’ve had is that far too many of our pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies have been offshored. Advanced manufacturing will allow us to bring domestic production back and lower the cost.” – Peter Navarro, Trade Advisor to White House