The least thing politicians can do when China attacks our medicine supply
COVID exposed the danger of being heavily reliant on a foreign country for medications and medical supplies when China and other countries put a halt on PPE and other exports. As a result of inaction, we are seeing headlines announcing medication shortages of life-saving drugs, like chemotherapeutics, and generics like amoxicillin are higher than ever.
All Americans, not only those in medical professions, should share the same grave concerns expressed by former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley at the recent presidential primary debate. For decades, administrations from both political parties have sat idly by while America’s pharmaceutical manufacturing moved overseas, primarily to China and India.
Haley is right when she said, ‘We need to be focusing on companies that produce in America and supporting those companies that produce in America; not companies that are helping China.’
It is a national security and public health crisis that nearly 90% of the chemical ingredients needed to make antibiotics and other medications are sourced from China. And it’s not just the ingredients. Our government is purchasing final products from China too.
Our troops and our entire population are at risk when an adversary has the ability to provide tainted or ineffective products, if they provide them at all. Until we control our medication supply chain, we are at risk.
In 2015, China’s government released a 10-year plan to dominate 10 high-tech industries, especially geopolitically important sectors like bio-medicine. They directed enormous subsidies into these industries and implemented policies that favored their domestic companies while punishing any foreign competition. Since 2016, U.S. pharmaceutical imports from China have climbed 655%. This reliance is worst when it comes to antibiotics.
A pharmaceutical plant in Bristol, Tennessee, USAntibiotics, is the only remaining American manufacturer of amoxicillin finished doses. At its peak, the plant employed more than 500 American workers and manufactured ‘billions of pills,’ but as is the case of many American pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, has faced challenges in its over 30-year history.
The federal government is supporting Chinese manufacturers while plants like the one in Tennessee, are overlooked. Opportunities to strengthen our domestic supply chain are missed. This is in stark contrast to governments around the world, including Austria and France who have committed $53 million and $168 million to support their domestic antibiotics operations.
If our federal government would redirect these contracts to domestic companies, then they would be able to expand operations, create stable jobs and improve national security.
As China aims to achieve dominance in these industries by 2049 – the hundredth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China – our vulnerability is only likely to get worse. With our health industrial base on life support, we are already facing shortages of key drugs and costly disruptions that inevitably occur when you are relying on a supplier like China.
As China continues to attack one of our most vital industries, federal leaders have a choice to make. Purchasing from American manufacturers should be the easy part of this challenge. Politicians love to talk buy American on the campaign trail because voters overwhelmingly recognize why it’s important.
We must put those campaign promises into action. When the stakes are this high, the least the federal government can do is the bare minimum.
President Biden didn’t create this problem, but he has the opportunity to do something about it. All Americans benefit when critical medications and their ingredients are manufactured in America. This bipartisan issue deserves action now before we have another crisis and the most vulnerable Americans suffer due to a lack of this life-saving medication.
It’s time to prioritize domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing to enhance our national and public health security.