Government Watch / National Security / Politics

China Controls Your Meds


Democrats and Republicans battered TikTok’s CEO at a House of Representatives hearing on Thursday – for good reason. The Chinese app poses a national security risk, accumulating troves of data on its American users. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s slithery comment that “I don’t think spying is the right way to describe it,” only heightened concerns.

Too bad another Chinese threat – bigger and more immediate – isn’t getting the same attention. China has a chokehold on our medication supply chain. Beijing controls many – in some cases, all – active ingredients for the remedies in our medicine chests, the drugs used in emergency rooms and even antibiotics administered to soldiers on the battlefield.

The med bottles in your cabinet don’t say “Made in China,” but nearly all are, including 97% of U.S. antibiotics, by some estimates.

In a tense situation, Beijing could simply cut off shipments of antibiotics, cancer drugs and other meds, forcing the U.S. to cede to its demands. Our survival hinges on their goodwill. Terrifying.

China cornered the market for drug ingredients fast. Until the mid-1990s, the West and Japan produced 90% of the world’s active pharmaceutical ingredients. By 2017, China was producing 40%. Now almost all drug pipelines start in China. Even India, the other drug producing giant, relies on China for 70% of its active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Gary Peters warns that foreign dependence is “an unacceptable national security risk.” But talk is cheap.

As China’s grip tightens, the federal government is doing next to nothing, according to the Committee’s report released last week.

In 2019, Congress requested the Food and Drug Administration list the lifesaving drugs Americans rely on and which countries supply them. The FDA still hasn’t done it. FDA bureaucrats pathetically plead, in so many words, that it’s too much work to pore over the applicants filed by drug producers for the information.

It gets worse. In 2021, the Department of Defense inspector general issued a scathing report that DOD lacked strategies to circumvent reliance on foreign drug suppliers. Yet as of last week, DOD still hadn’t assembled data on where its drugs originate or what can be done to overcome chokeholds.

President Joe Biden’s Defense Department considers securing medicines for the military a lower priority than woke goals such as pronoun lessons, sex change surgery for transgender personnel and climate change.

Biden himself told Air Force personnel that global warming was the greatest threat facing America. Biden proposes spending “billions” converting every military vehicle to electric, but only $60 million – a tiny fraction of that sum – to incentivize domestic manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. That says it all.

Sorry, Mr. President, but China should not control access to medicines for our soldiers and citizens.

Even in peacetime, America’s dependence on far-away drug suppliers is a problem. Parents are frantically racing from one drug store to the next for amoxicillin for their child’s strep throat and meds for ADHD.

Reliance on China also means accepting drugs made in squalid factories that are seldom, or never, inspected by the FDA, according to a General Accountability Office report. In 2008, a contaminated blood thinner from China, heparin, killed 81 American patients.

It’s time to bring drug manufacturing home. One obvious way is to restore Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code, which Congress enacted in 1976 to attract industry to Puerto Rico. It gave companies a tax credit equal to what they would have to pay the federal government on their earnings there.

Pharmaceutical plants sprang up fast there, and by 1990, 17 of the 21 most prescribed drugs in the U.S. were made in Puerto Rico. When Congress ended the subsidy, drug manufacturing moved halfway around the world to China, but some factories still sit idle.

In ordinary times, Democrats would reject tax breaks for drug companies. But even oncologist Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a Democrat and former Obama health adviser, has recommended this quick solution to a menacing situation.

For all the money Americans spend on medications, there’s no reason to settle for cheap, sometimes contaminated Chinese ingredients and the looming threat of a Chinese blockade. Tell Congress to act.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.


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2 months ago

We have pharmaceutical companies here but are they owned by American companies? If not they should be and should be producing our medications.

2 months ago

The US must go back to growing our own foods, making our own meds, and owning our US lands and stop China from taking us over.

2 months ago

since covid and the revelation of china’s and our own government’s uninvited involvement in our personal health choices i determined the threat to my good health was greater taking meds from evil, corrupt sources than changing my lifestyle to improve/maintain my health. . go sell crazy somewhere else. America is full up.

Randall L. Beatty
2 months ago

We need to stop on depending on China and other countries for what we need it puts us in a bad spot a lot is greed get it done cheaper then sell high to the people of this country bring back everything buy nothing from China or Russia we can do it all here.

Karen Knowles
2 months ago

Great article, Ms.McCaughey. I completely agree with your comments. This needs to change and fast. It never should have happened in the first place.

2 months ago


Barbara D
2 months ago

Why China was ever given the sole responsibility of supplying nearly ALL our medicines is too stupid to explain sensibly. Why would you ever, EVER, turn something so important over to one of our most dangerous enemies on the planet earth!!! It is nothing short of INSANE!!

David Millikan
2 months ago
Reply to  Barbara D

You have Obama to thank for that.

2 months ago

Donald J. Trump was the only president in recent memory which noted that fact. China has us by the short hairs and all they would need to do is cut off our meds and our country would perish! We are worrying about diversity in the schools and military while four nations gear up to wipe the U.S. off the map. What is wrong with that picture!

2 months ago

Why should any American government agency do anything about it. The government is also owned by China. The Biden crime family lives in Xi’s pockets. That’s where all their money came from.

David Millikan
2 months ago

Excellent article.
Our Penicillin is made in Communist China which is a Major Threat to National Security along with every drug you take whether prescribed or not prescribed that you buy in stores.
As long as everybody including Native Americans keep buying this POISON from Communist China
YOU are putting YOUR lives in
DANGER all because they’re too CHEAP to buy AMERICAN
MANUFACTURED DRUGS which is by far SAFER than Communist China
Communist China.

2 months ago

In one swoop they could destroy our nation by poisoning the medications we need. Bring it back to Made In the USA!

Karen Knowles
2 months ago
Reply to  Brenda

So scary but true!

Sharon Ormsby
2 months ago

We don’t need any drug companies outside of the US, they all should be here, period. Case closed.

anna hubert
2 months ago

Is there anything China does not control Even the rope we put around our own neck is made there How do we pull out of that one

2 months ago

While the article is completely accurate and most of the recommendations are sound or at least workable, the simple reality is most of Washington, D.C. has a record of “kicking the can down the road” until a threat becomes so severe and immediate, that often the default response from Washington is a poorly thought-out response that does nothing but paper over the problem until the professional politicians can divert the public’s attention elsewhere.

Washington primarily exists today to “talk” about problems. Not actually “fix” problems or avoid making the mistakes that lead to these problems in the first place. As an example, the reason we are almost completely dependent on China for almost everything associated with our pharmaceutical and medical needs today is because of poorly thought-out decisions made in Washington going all the way back to the G.H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations involving China, that were adopted and expanded under the G.W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. We, as a country, created this problem for ourselves over a 30 to 35 year period. Now we are simply left with the results of those poor decisions.

Almost every sector of the United States economy has suffered in the same way due to the result of the exact same choices made by successive U.S. administrations of both parties over that time frame. Only one President brought this threat to the public’s attention and the establishment of both political parties worked overtime to get him out of office. Today China accounts for the vast majority of everything we consume in this country. Can we correct the situation over a long period of time? Sure, if the American people were up to the long-term challenge. However, much of the population of this country today is focused like a laser on immediate gratification. Meaning they want immediate results that entail absolutely no pain or discomfort in any way. That is NOT the mindset needed to accomplish what would be, at a minimum, a 15 to 20 year project.

Pete from St Pete
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

It is an American custom to put off problems until they grow so big they have to be solved with last minute and usually wasteful or ineffective solutions. The primary current example of this is that neither party will even discuss possible solutions to keep Social Security viable.

2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

PaulE, I agree with your comment completely. Sadly I feel it’s way past time for changes. With the way and attitudes of the new America, people have no will to change these and other things. It’s too easy to live status quo.

2 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Except the status quo can’t be maintained once China decides to “cut us off” from virtually everything we rely on. President Xi has already said multiple times that China would have no problem punishing the United States by stopping shipments of goods vital to America to get their way.

Joey Mize
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

So it seems that if we were to exterminate the China Threat, then we would effectively kill our ourselves in the process. What a Catch-22. I wonder if Xi see’s it that way as well, since we are the primary buyers of the products that China is exporting. I guess it had to come to this The MAD syndrome. Promise them anything but let them EAT CAKE … I have seen the enemy and it is US.

zoe frost
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Like virtually every comment you’ve made, spot on. Love your thoughtful comments full of facts to back up what you say. Looking forward to reading more in the future; you are appreciated, keep up the good work.

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