US/World

National Security Heads Alarmed By China’s Control Of American Drug Supply

U.S. national security officials have raised concerns that the country is at risk of losing its medicine supply for the public and military. China appears to be controlling the majority of the key ingredients for drugs used by many Americans. 

Beijing holds the manufacturers of ingredients for common generic drugs, including antibiotics and medicines for blood pressure, epilepsy, depression, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, NBC News reported Friday. Officials said the Trump administration's ongoing trade war might encourage China to cut the delivery of drugs to the U.S. 

"If China shut the door on exports of medicines and their key ingredients and raw material, U.S. hospitals and military hospitals and clinics would cease to function within months, if not days," Rosemary Gibson, author of "China Rx," told NBC News. 

The White House National Security Council has started efforts to identify the medications that will be affected if the Chinese government decides to cut the drug supply, according to Christopher Priest, acting deputy assistant director for health care operations and Tricare for the Defense Health Agency. 

The Pentagon also recently held meetings to discuss the issue. Defense officials said China could use drugs as a weapon to disrupt the U.S., affecting both civilians and the military that highly need immediate treatments. 

"Basically we've outsourced our entire industry to China," retired Brig. Gen. John Adams said. "That is a strategic vulnerability. They're doing this, they select their industries for the future and they've got a plan."

The officials raised the concerns after a top Chinese economist explained in March how the country could cut supplies in many nations that rely on its drug manufacturing industry. 

"China is the world's largest exporter of vitamins and antibiotic raw materials," he said. "Once the export is reduced, the medical systems of some developed countries will not work."

That prompted Congress to work on the issue. House Democrats Adam Schiff and Anna Eshoo said the Chinese government might use drugs shortages to “force a change of U.S. policy.” It might involve cutting back majority of supply or increasing prices of pharmaceutical ingredients.

Beijing might also weaponize its exported medicines. Gibson said the U.S. might receive fake drugs, which contain lethal contaminants. 

Meanwhile, a state-run Chinese paper reported that the government is less likely to manipulate drug ingredients or cut its supply.

Drugs A pile of medications. Pixabay

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