A tentative $6-8 billion “emergency funding” bill to address the coronavirus outbreak does nothing to lessen America’s dependence on China for supplies of basic and essential medicines, said Rosemary Gibson, author of China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine.
Gibson joined Monday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host John Hayward, noting that the aforementioned bill does not fund domestic manufacturing of medicines to reduce U.S. dependence on Chinese medical exports.
“In the spending bill — seven-billion-dollar spending bill put forward by the Democrats, or eight billion — there was a billion dollars for masks and protective equipment — and that’s all important for our healthcare workers — but I saw nothing in there about how we’re going to start making medicines here,” Gibson said.
Gibson continued, “There’s money to make masks, but where’s the money going to come to help jump-start manufacturing here in this country for some of the really important medicines? There’s a list of 20 or 30 drugs that the Food and Drug Administration is really concerned about. I don’t know the names of those drugs, they’ve not been publicly released.”
“But how come Congress isn’t looking at this?” asked Gibson. “It’s really quite concerning.”
American and Western pharmaceutical companies cannot compete with Chinese manufacturers in terms of producing generic medicines and intellectual property patents that have expired, explained Gibson, highlighting China’s state subsidies for its medical industry.
Gibson said, “People are saying, ‘Well, let the free market do it.’ People have to understand this market. Big pharma got out of generic drug making a long time ago. They make ten percent of the drugs, the high-cost and high-margin products.”
Very few people would recognize companies manufacturing generic drugs, added Gibson, noting the large share of global supply being outside the United States.
“Western companies are dropping products because they can’t compete with China,” Gibson stated. “China started bringing generic drugs into the United States. About nine percent of our generics now are coming from China.
Gibson listed antidepressants, medicines for diabetes and blood pressure, dialysis, surgery, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease as among those manufactured in China and sent to the U.S.
Gibson characterized U.S. dependence on Chinese exports of medicines as a national security threat.
“Is China going to be sending those when its own population needs medicines in the context of a production shutdown?” asked Gibson. “Probably not, but nobody is thinking about that.”
Gibson dubbed generic drugs as “the new orphan drugs” given domestic medicine manufacturers’ inability to produce them at lower costs than China-based competitors.
“Nobody wants to make [generic drugs] anymore because American and other Western companies are not competing with Chinese companies. They’re competing with the Chinese government which has been subsidizing production,” Gibson said. “So even if you built a plant here, you won’t have buyers because China will come in and undercut you.”
The federal government should “invest in [domestic] manufacturing” for medicines, advised Gibson, pointing to the strategic national stockpile, the Department of Defense, and Veterans Affairs as ideal instruments through which to provide revenue streams to U.S.-based medicine producers.
“[The federal government] should invest in manufacturing here and then have long-term contracts with local manufacturers to supply the DOD, the VA, and to replenish the strategic national stockpile, and when you have long-term contracts and guaranteed customers. businesses will certainly respond,” stated Gibson.
Hayward asked how long such a disengagement from China on pharmaceutical products would take with an industrial policy to stimulate domestic production of medicines.
“Probably less than [a year],” estimated Gibson. “There’s a number of startup companies that are just ready to go. They’re hungry, and they want to deploy advanced manufacturing technology which is a continuous process that is a much cheaper way of making medicines. The cost of them would be at least 20 percent cheaper than the traditional way of making them, and that’s even accounting for the China price.”
Gibson added, “We need help because our manufacturing base has just been decimated. It’s collapsed, for the most part, especially making these core ingredients. So that upfront investment, the federal government would recoup a significant return on its investment if it jump-started advanced manufacturing of essential generic drugs here, and by the way, it’s going to be a lifesaver for many people because we need those medicines. Our military needs them. Our veterans need them, and certainly, our strategic national stockpile [needs them], [as] 85 percent of the medicines in there, they depend to some degree on China.”
“Six billion dollars of our money in the United States is going to China to pay for generic drugs to grow their industry as ours is collapsing here at home,” estimated Gibson. “Taxpayers would be shocked. That’s why we have to bring it back home and you use this as a way to jump-start production here in the United States, and good companies want to get going on it.”
Aspiring domestic manufacturers of generic medicines “need advocacy groups,” determined Gibson. “Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, you depend on medicine.”
“There’s no one in Washington advocating to have our manufacturing come back to the United States for essential medicine,” noted Gibson. “We need to build advocacy for it in existing organizations that care about it. I would hope veterans groups would do that. I would hope that organizations representing older adults would do that, but I don’t see them coming on board,”
Gibson concluded, “People in the administration need help too. Make the case that this should be included in the spending authorization bill. That’s what we need advocacy, and I trust that a lot of your listeners are very civic-minded very engaged, so if any of them … are part of a national organization that could start sending emails and letters to certain members of Congress, give them the support they need to move forward on getting an authorization and appropriation for money to incentivize companies that want to make generic drugs from soup to nuts.”
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