Chilling Testimony Reveals U.S. Medical Supply Chain Vulnerable to China Amid Coronavirus
On Thursday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked three health care experts about the dangers of the U.S. health care industry being dependent on China. The experts revealed the chilling and eye-opening fact that communist China could derail America's medical supply chain.
Hawley first turned to Rosemary Gibson, senior advisor at The Hastings Center (a bioethics research institute). "We know China produces about nine percent of our generic drugs, which is a lot," he said. "Do you have any sense of how many of our drugs involve Chinese production?"
"Thousands," Gibson replied. "Thousands of our generic drugs and even some of the brand name products and perhaps even new therapies for coronavirus may depend on the chemicals that are sourced primarily in China."
"I was sitting in a room with the people that actually make medicines. These are the men and women in pharmaceutical engineering and pharmaceutical chemistry. I said, ‘So tell me, if you have to make these tomorrow, where do the core chemicals come from to make it? How much are we dependent on China?’ They said 90 percent of the chemicals to make those basic generic drugs depend on China," Gibson added.
"The good news is that there is advanced manufacturing technology and really brilliant chemists right here in the United States that want to make it, are capable of starting tomorrow," she said.
Hawley next turned to Johns Hopkins University Professor Gerard Anderson, asking how the federal government can support small biotech companies.
Anderson said the government should work to make sure that these companies "have a guaranteed place to sell their products. Right now, they are coming up with these great new ideas, and they don’t always have a place to sell their products."
Anderson warned that the big pharmaceutical companies have an incentive to shift production to China. "Pfizer has their major manufacturing plant in China. The big companies are looking where they can produce least expensively and are going there, especially the generic, because it’s all price-driven," he said.
Finally, Hawley turned to Tim Morrison, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a free-market think tank. He cited Morrison's written testimony, noting that the U.S. ended domestic production of penicillin in 2004, even though pharmacists filled 62 million penicillin prescriptions in the U.S. in 2015. Morrison described the outsourcing of the U.S. medical supply chain to China as an assault on the free market.
"I think the point of Made in China 2025 is essentially to destroy the free market and create incentives to offshore production in China," he said. "And originally this seemed like a good thing. We'll save prices. We'll move value, where value could be moved, we’ll continue to do the innovation, but China is scooping that up as well."
"And so, without any decision by any government authority, this happened and now we are going to deal with the consequences. And of course, an antibiotic isn't instrumental to treat a virus, but the respiratory infection, it is," Morrison said.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson warned about U.S. health care dependence on China last Friday.
"While the rest of us were arguing about sexism and transgendered bathrooms, China took control of our health care system. China dominates the world market in pharmaceutical ingredients. Compounds used in virtually every essential medicine, for high blood pressure, for cancer, for Alzheimer’s disease, and many more, come from China. So do key components in vital medical technology, CT scanners, X-ray machines, ultrasounds."
"As of tonight, more than 95 percent of all the antibiotics in America are manufactured in Communist China. Our chief global rival has a total monopoly on the most important medicine in the world," Carlson warned. "That should worry you more than anything the candidates are talking about."
"Global warming isn’t the existential threat we face. Extortion from China is," he added.
Thankfully, if Gibson is correct, the U.S. has the ability to shift production back across the Pacific. It may be vital for American national security for companies to do so. The rising threat of the coronavirus — which itself originated in China — might spur America into action.
Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.