China’s Cartels: Those Who Control the Medicines Control the World

China’s Cartels: Those Who Control the Medicines Control the World. By Rosemary Gibson.

On February 27, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported the shortage of a drug caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China. The agency didn’t name the drug because it would cause hoarding. Since then, the FDA has gone silent about shortages. Meanwhile, U.S. drug wholesalers are “allocating” critical generic drugs, an industry euphemism for rationing. …

China is the source of 90 percent of the chemical starting materials needed to manufacture common generic drugs that help people recover. They include medicines to increase dangerously low blood pressure such as norepinephrine, the antibiotic azithromycin for bacterial infections, and propofol given when patients are placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.

Generic drugs are 90 percent of the medicines Americans take. Thousands of them are made with chemical starting materials from China.

China’s dominance escalated after the U.S. granted most-favored nation trading status to China. Within three years of the U.S.-China Trade Relations Act in 2000 and China joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), the last aspirin manufacturing plant in the U.S. shut its doors, the last facility making Vitamin C went out of business, and the only remaining penicillin plant announced its closure. Now, the U.S. has virtually no capacity to manufacture antibiotics.

A common view is that production has shifted to China because of lower labor costs and weaker regulations. There’s more to the story.

Western companies cannot compete successfully because the free market doesn’t exist in generic drug and chemical ingredient manufacturing. China’s cartels fueled by government subsidies undercut U.S. and other companies, driving them out of business. Western firms aren’t competing against Chinese companies. They are competing against the Chinese government. …

As China ramps up production of generic drugs for American hospitals, pharmacies and home medicine cabinets, U.S. and other western manufacturing is collapsing. Mylan, a U.S.-based generic company, announced last year that it was merging with Pfizer. Around the same time, Pfizer announced the opening of its global generic headquarters in China. Sandoz, a European company, and Teva, an Israeli company, announced in early 2019 that they will discontinue production of many medicines. …

Long before the coronavirus hit the U.S. homeland in earnest, hundreds of medicines were in short supply or unavailable altogether….

I visited a hospital recently and talked with doctors about the availability of critical drugs. They said they could not obtain a critical antibiotic to treat pneumonia. Many other antibiotics are being rationed. …

Tainted drugs to hurt us:

In July 2019, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission held a hearing on U.S. dependence on China for medicines. During the hearing, a representative from the Department of Defense testified about the risks to the military of medicines made with key ingredients from China.

This testimony triggered a spellbinding account by a commissioner, a retired Army colonel with a distinguished record of military service. He talked about his three different blood pressure medicines whose key ingredients were made in China and contained rocket fuel. If he was getting contaminated drugs, active duty military people were probably getting them too, he opined.

The retired Army colonel was one of millions of Americans whose blood pressure medicines were contaminated with carcinogens. In July 2018, the FDA announced the first of many recalls. While many manufacturers recalled their products, the most troubling was the manufacturer in China whose active ingredient contained more than 200 times the acceptable limit of the rocket fuel carcinogen, per pill. Even worse, the company knew its product did not meet U.S. standards but sold it anyway …

Existential threat:

Make no mistake, the United States faces an existential threat posed by China’s control over the global supply of the ingredients and chemical materials to manufacture critical drugs. In the hands of an adversary, medicines can be weaponized. They can be made with lethal contaminants or sold without any real medicine in them, rendering them ineffective.

So we need Chinese drugs to help us fight a virus from China (which probably escaped accidentally from their only capable bioweapons lab, which is in Wuhan). Hmmm.

hat-tip Stephen Neil