By Kendall Qualls
Candidate for Congress in MN 3rd Congressional District
The United States must end its reliance on Chinese manufactured pharmaceuticals, the latest example of our overdependence on China. Our continued dependence on China for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies threatens our public health and undermines our national security. The coronavirus pandemic has specifically highlighted the extent of our reliance on Chinese manufactured pharmaceuticals and the immediate need for realigning our supply chain in this life-saving industry.
China Controls America’s Pharmaceutical Supply
Generics account for roughly 90% of U.S. prescriptions and we depend on China for 80% of the key ingredients to make our generics. Chinese firms also dominate production of household over-the-counter drugs and life-saving antibiotics, including 97% of antibiotics and 95% of ibuprofen imports.
Threat to Public Health
America’s reliance on Chinese manufactured pharmaceuticals is a threat to our public health. China’s pharmaceutical industry is not effectively regulated by either the Chinese government or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA cannot guarantee the safety of Chinese manufactured pharmaceuticals because it has a limited number of inspectors in China and limited cooperation from the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Inspections are critical because of the fraudulent practices of many Chinese manufacturers. In 2016, China’s Food and Drug Administration, now known as the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), was compelled to cancel 80% of new drug applications from Chinese manufacturers because of fraudulent data. This is especially worrisome because the NMPA does not have the same standards and resources as the FDA.
The United States is in a position of vulnerability because the Chinese Communist Party can cut off our drug supply at any moment, endangering millions of American lives. Likewise, lack of effective health and safety regulations and the risk of contamination threatens the health of American citizens on a daily basis.
Threat to National Security
America’s reliance on Chinese manufactured pharmaceuticals is a threat to our national security, both on and off the battlefield. China’s dominance of the pharmaceutical industry was not by accident. Rather, the Chinese Communist Party made dominance in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology as part of their official government policy.
China can use our dependence on Chinese pharmaceuticals as a weapon against us. Indeed, last March, a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official stated that China could curb pharmaceutical exports to the United States as a retaliation tool because China is the “world’s largest exporter of raw materials for vitamins and antibiotics.” Likewise, China’s totalitarian government, emergence as a geopolitical rival, and increasingly aggressive actions towards our allies in the South China Sea suggests their long-term interests and values do not align with our long-term interests and values. Thus, we should not rely on the whims of the Chinese Communist Party for essential pharmaceuticals.
My Plan to End America’s Reliance on Chinese Manufactured Pharmaceuticals
We must take our national health and security out of China’s hands. The United States, the most powerful country in the world, should not be at the mercy of anyone for life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
We should enact five policy changes:
1. Direct China to ensure the safety and efficacy of their pharmaceutical products and, unless done to our satisfaction, prevent further importation of such products.
2. Institute a country of origin label on all pharmaceuticals.
3. Test, monitor, and track all imported pharmaceutical ingredients.
4. Require the FDA to compile a list of all pharmaceuticals produced in China, identify pharmaceuticals of critical importance, and determine alternative sources of supply.
5. Incentivize and invest in domestic manufacturing to ensure the production and safety of essential medicines and medical supplies. This includes antibiotics, generic drugs, vitamins, masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators, and face shields.
By enacting my proposal, we will end our reliance on Chinese manufactured pharmaceuticals and protect the health and safety of all Americans.