Congress to Examine the Health and Safety Risks of China’s “Grip” on Medicine

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A little over a year ago, AAM President Scott Paul chatted with health care expert Rosemary Gibson for an episode of The Manufacturing Report podcast. Gibson had just co-authored a new book examining an overlooked part of America’s trade relationship with China.

The book’s title says it all. In “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine,” Gibson and co-author Janardan Prasad Singh outline how China now dominates pharmaceutical manufacturing — and why that is such a big problem for the United States.

Along with making a significant amount of medication, China also has a virtual monopoly on many of the essential ingredients that go into the pharmaceuticals that Americans depend on, including everything from over-the-counter vitamins to cancer meds to almost every antibiotic and blood pressure medication.

China’s dominance of the pharmaceutical supply chain means it has the power to cut off access to many of the medications Americans need to, um, live.

Think tariffs on cotton sweaters and bed linens are bad? Think about what would happen If China decided to cut off our medicine.

Pharmacy shelves would sit empty. Hospitals would close. People would die.

“Children and adults with cancer will suffer without vital medicines,” Gibson recently told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “For people on kidney dialysis, treatment would cease, a veritable death sentence.”

It’s all very scary stuff. Keep you awake at night kind of stuff.

But there’s another big risk: Quality control. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) simply is not equipped to properly monitor the massive amount of drugs produced by China. Mistakes happen, after all, even when everyone is acting in the best interest.

Problems have arisen, sometimes with tragic results, like the tainted blood thinner killed 246 people in 2007 and 2008. Just last year, popular blood pressure medication valsartan was recalled because of worries it had been contaminated.

Yeah, like we said. Scary.

Still, for some reason, the issue has not gained as much traction as other China-related issues. How much horserace-type coverage comes out each day about the back-and-forth in the China trade war, after all?

Which is why we were glad to see that California Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo and Adam Schiff — who chair the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health and House Intelligence Committee, respectively — had penned a new op-ed in The Washington Post explaining the many national security risks that come from China’s “grip on pharmaceutical drugs.”

Eshoo and Schiff used the piece to announce that they plan to “hold joint committee hearings on these issues to shine a light on the problem and to develop bipartisan solutions.” They continue:

“We need to think of pharmaceuticals as what they are for millions of Americans: a critical good that we literally can’t live without. It’s unacceptable to become fully dependent on any single foreign country for those goods — all the more so when it’s China.”

It’s good news that the duo are elevating the issue, which unfortunately does not receive the level of attention it deserves. We plan to keep a close eye on these hearings, and we encourage Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to work to find ways to begin to reverse these problems in the supply chain and strengthen America’s own pharmaceutical manufacturing.

In the meantime, we encourage you to read the entire op-ed, along with Gibson’s testimony to the China commission. If you have time, check out her interview on the podcast, too.


Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.


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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work