China supplies more than 90 percent of the hydrocortisone, antibiotics, and antibiotic ingredients consumed in the U.S. as well as 70 percent of the ibuprofen and large proportions of other drugs and nutritional supplements, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has stirred concerns about the U.S.’s ability to sustain its pharmaceutical supply in the case of global emergency or worsening relations with China.
“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 of the Hastings Center and author of a book on the subject.
That scenario may be tested now. Last week, India, which imports drug ingredients from China and exports finished medicines, ordered its pharma companies to halt exports of 26 drugs and drug ingredients, most of them antibiotics.
Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, and other countries supplying surgical masks and related supplies also are restricting exports to ensure adequate supplies at home.
“The coronavirus shows the importance of bringing all of that manufacturing back to America,” Donald Trump said last week.
Some of that manufacturing already has left China. But, it has resettled in countries such as Mexico and Vietnam, where costs are low. Many drugs now being made in the U.S. are still being made from Chinese ingredients.
China has sought to capitalize on the U.S.’s dependence, with Xinhua, the state news agency, declaring that instead of blaming China for starting the coronavirus pandemic, the world should thank it for supplying medicines. If China stopped exporting drugs, it said, “the U.S. would sink into the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic.”
TREND FORECAST: The United States will attempt to take measures to produce drugs, as they once did, in their homeland. If fact, it will become a political issue as well and part of a platform among the candidates in 2020’s Presidential Reality Show.®