You already know that China's coronavirus is spreading and has sparked global panic among some. But there's another impact you may not have heard much about: a threat to our supplies of medicine in the U.S. This very scenario was foreshadowed two years ago when we spoke with Rosemary Gibson, author of China R-X: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine. Gibson is back with us today for a medical follow up.
Gibson: A China RX exposes how dependent we are as a country on China for so many of the ingredients and thousands and thousands of the medicines we take every single day. We're so dependent that if China shuts the door on exports to our country, within months, our pharmacy shelves would be going bare.
Sharyl: So with the Coronavirus crisis, is China withholding medicine and medical products from us?
Gibson: China is withholding masks and other protective gear that are made in China, sometimes by U.S. companies, meant for export here, and that's because they have a lot of sick people and they need those products there, and most countries would do the exact same thing. The problem is China had a whole plan and strategy to become the global supplier, but if you become the global supplier, you have a responsibility to the rest of the world. You just can't abandon the rest of the world.
Sharyl: What about medicine, not masks? Are there medicines that you think are in short supply are going to be in short supply soon ?
Gibson: There have been no official reports of the Chinese government withholding medicines to the U.S. and other countries, but it would seem that they would be likely doing that.
Sharyl: Your book seemed to predict a scenario like this?
Gibson: It did predict it, unfortunately. It said that in the event of a natural disaster or global pandemic if China shuts the door, the U.S. would have to stand in line with other countries for medicines and the components to make them.
Sharyl: How much medicine that we rely upon comes from China.
Gibson: Well, 85% of the strategic national stockpile, which is the medicines and supplies that we need as a country. In the event of an outbreak in a city or a hurricane, 85% of those products depend to some degree on China.
Sharyl: After this crisis is over, will the United States change its systems and reliance on China?
Gibson: It depends how bad it is. If this Coronavirus outbreak goes on in China and hits the U.S. hard, we may see some change to bring some of that manufacturing and self-sufficiency back home.
Sharyl: Which you recommend.
Gibson: We have to do it because someday it's going to hit the fan.
This past week, the Food and Drug Administration said it had contacted 180 drugmakers asking them to evaluate their supply chain, and identified 20 drugs that are only made in China and nowhere else. However, the FDA told Full Measure the public does not have the right to know the names of the companies or drugs.