Posted by Curt on 12 March, 2020 at 3:34 pm. 2 comments already!


I discussed this in-depth on my program this afternoon. Admittedly, I was shocked when I realized just how dependent the United States is on Chinese pharmaceuticals. Controlling 90% of a country’s antibiotic supply seems like a national security issue. This is probably why Trump and other lawmakers are treating it as one. The New York Times, credit where due, has a good piece on the administration’s “Buy American” policy and quotes White House advisor Peter Navarro (bold my emphasis):

The effort includes a push by the White House trade adviser Peter Navarro to tighten “Buy American” laws so federal agencies are required to purchase American-made pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The administration has been preparing an executive order, which could be released in the coming days, that would close loopholes allowing the government to purchase pharmaceuticals, face masks, ventilators and other medical products from foreign countries. The hope is that increasing government demand for American-made drugs and medical products will provide an incentive for companies to make their products in the United States, rather than China.


“China has managed to dominate all aspects of the supply chain using the same unfair trade practices that it has used to dominate other sectors — cheap sweatshop labor, lax environmental regulations and massive government subsidies,” Mr. Navarro said in an interview. “As President Trump has said, what we need to do is bring those jobs home so that we can protect the public health and the economic and national security of the country.”


While the United States remains a global leader in drug discovery, much of the manufacturing has moved offshore. The last American plant to make key ingredients for penicillin announced it would close its doors in 2004.

Chinese pharmaceutical companies have supplied more than 90 percent of U.S. antibiotics, vitamin C, ibuprofen and hydrocortisone, as well as 70 percent of acetaminophen and 40 to 45 percent of heparin in recent yearsaccording to Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Supporters of reducing reliance on China have used the coronavirus epidemic to highlight what they say is a longstanding vulnerability that could leave Americans dangerously short of medicines in the event of a war, trade conflict or pandemic.

“If China shut the door on exports of core components to make our medicines, within months our pharmacy shelves would become bare and our health care system would cease to function,” said Rosemary Gibson, a senior adviser with the Hastings Center and an author of “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine.”

“In the event of a natural disaster or global pandemic, then the United States will wait in line with every other country for essential medicines,” she said.

Some in China have also noted these vulnerabilities. An article posted last week by the state news agency Xinhua argued that the world should thank China, rather than blame it for spreading the virus, saying that if China banned the export of drugs, “the United States would sink into the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic.”

Senator Ted Cruz noted this, too:

There is a huge discussion to be had about the protection of civil liberties in a time of a pandemic and the role of government when vital resources affecting all citizens are threatened.

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