Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

It's impossible to ensure pharmaceutical & over-the-counter meds from China are safe, experts say.

I’ve spent hours researching the health impacts of various vitamins, supplements and medications, weighing the costs and benefits of various options of each... until I end up researching how to cure a headache as well.  

Yet, I’ve neglected researching one major element of my health that you probably have, too – the pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs (OTC) that have become so critical to modern health.

I’ve always just assumed that medications and vitamins would be one of the most closely scrutinized and regulated elements under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Sure, that fish oil supplement may not actually do anything for my heart, but it won’t be detrimental to my health, right? Right!?!

But just this week, the FDA announced a voluntary recall of a generic, commonly prescribed blood pressure medication, Valsartan, that may have been contaminated by the carcinogenic toxin N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).

All of the Valsartan flagged for recall by the FDA was manufactured in China, which turns out to be the source of most of America’s drugs.

Tragically, this isn’t the first time the FDA has missed contaminates in America’s drug supply. A decade ago, 246 people died in the aftermath of a tainted blood thinner, Heparin, that had also been manufactured in China.

Eighty percent of active ingredients in America’s pharmaceutical and OTC drugs — you know, the stuff that actually makes your medicine work — come from China and India, according to Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh, authors of the new book China RX: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine.

With production so far away, the FDA is understandably challenged in conducting frequent and thorough inspections of drug manufacturing facilities overseas. That makes the need to secure drug manufacturing in the United States all the more imperative.

“The FDA says drugs are safe. But the outsourcing of America’s medicine making is so complex it seems impossible to ensure that they are safe,” Gibson and Singh write.

Many of the drugs that Americans depend upon, including birth control pills, antibiotics like penicillin, vitamin C and even cancer drugs, are made in China with little regulation.

Even more alarmingly, China is aiming to become the world’s pharmacy, part of its “Made in China 2025” industry plan.

As President Donald Trump contemplates opening the way for more imported drugs to enter the United States, it is critical that we think carefully about how to protect America’s drug manufacturing, which Gibson and Signh show has been systemically undercut by Chinese competitors.

Listen to Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul’s interview with Rosemary Gibson of “China RX” for a dose of truth and a prescription for how America can protect its drug supply: