FILE- In this July 10, 2018, file photo bottles of medicine ride on a belt at the Express Scripts mail-in pharmacy warehouse in Florence, N.J. On Monday, Oct. 15, the industry’s largest trade group announced that dozens of drugmakers will start disclosing the prices for U.S. prescription drugs advertised on TV. The prices won’t actually be shown in the TV commercials but the advertisement will include a website where the list price will be posted. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
The Chinese people watched as Chinese President-for-Life Xi Jinping declared victory over the Wuhan virus this week.
According to Fox News, a new article in Xinhua, China’s state-run media agency, suggests that “China could impose pharmaceutical export controls which would plunge America into “the mighty sea of coronavirus.”
The problem is that the majority of the key ingredients and raw materials used to manufacture essential drugs are made by Chinese pharmaceutical companies. Long before the Wuhan virus crisis, Americans were concerned about China’s control over the U.S. drug supply.
The disturbing threats made during a global pandemic as well as the scary consequences if that threat becomes real highlight just how tight China’s grip is on the global supply chain. Already, the FDA has announced the first drug shortage related to the coronavirus. Though it did not disclose which drug was in short supply, the FDA did say it could not access enough raw components needed because they are made in China.
Though the United States is a global leader in drug discovery, much of the manufacturing has moved overseas…Chinese pharmaceuticals companies have taken over, supplying between 80 percent and 90 percent of U.S. antibiotics, 70 percent of acetaminophen and about 40 percent of heparin, according to Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Fox that the U.S. is “dangerously reliant” upon Chinese pharmaceuticals. More significantly, he said that “China is keenly aware” of this. And “in a moment of crisis — the U.S. and China have a showdown or something and they can threaten to cut us off from our pharmaceutical supplies, they could trigger a domestic problem here that would make it difficult for us to confront them.”
Rubio added that “If China makes good on its threat to cut off the United States, the results could be crippling…It’s a tremendous amount of leverage.”
Rosemary Gibson, the author of a book about America’s dependence upon China for the majority of our pharmaceuticals entitled “China Rx,” spoke to NBC News. She said, “If China shuts the door on exports of medicines and their key ingredients and raw materials, U.S. hospitals and military hospitals and clinics would cease to function within months, if not days.” She added, they “could potentially weaponize our medicines. They can sell us medicines without any medicine in them. They can sell medicines that have lethal contaminants in it.”
Gibson said that the U.S. no longer even makes penicillin. “The last penicillin plant in the United States closed in 2004.”
In addition to antibiotics, Gibson noted that China manufactures the key ingredients used in “generic drugs for blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and depression.”
Our reliance on Chinese pharmaceutical companies leaves us exposed. The rainy day that we’ve all feared could be near.
NBC also spoke to retired Brig. Gen. John Adams who told them, “Basically we’ve outsourced our entire industry to China. That is a strategic vulnerability…I think they know exactly what they’re doing and they’re incredibly good strategists. They’re doing this, they select their industries for the future and they’ve got a plan.”
So, let’s fast forward to today. President Xi ventures over to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus that has wreaked havoc across the globe and takes a bow. It is his “mission accomplished” moment.
As the number of new cases reported in China begins to decline, numbers are on the rise in many other countries. As of 9 am on March 13, the U.S. has 1,832 cases of the Wuhan virus. 41 people have died and 31 have recovered.
(It’s noteworthy that half of the deaths in the U.S. so far have occurred in one facility in Washington state.)
But the truth is that we are only at the beginning of our fight. We have a way to go before the situation begins to improve.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has begun to make ludicrous statements. Several days ago, a Ministry spokesperson claimed that “even though the epidemic was first reported in China, it didn’t necessarily originate there.” The Ministry said calling the virus the “Wuhan coronavirus” is a “despicable practice.” Some Chinese are saying the virus may have originated in the U.S.
A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, tweeted yesterday that “it might be the US army” that brought the coronavirus to China, giving an official boost to a conspiracy theory that had been allowed to circulate on Chinese social media for weeks. The conspiracy posits that 300 athletes from the US military, who in October attended the 7th Military World Games in Wuhan, where the epidemic first broke out, were infected with the virus, thereby spreading it in China.
CNBC translated a recent editorial that was published recently in Xinhua which said, “Now, we should say righteously that the U.S. owes China an apology, the world owes China a thank you.”
With sentiments like this being expressed by high-ranking Chinese officials, it shouldn’t really surprise us to hear Chinese threats about disrupting the supply lines. It seems to me this is a dream scenario for them.