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

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work