Before the 2000’s, the world feared WMD (weapons of mass destruction) that involved nuclear technology. The threat of nuclear war, whether accidental or intentional, shaped how the military, our diplomates and alliance nations acted to protect its people and to prevent the mutual destruction of the world with a nuclear clash of superpowers.
In this century, biological weapons (although in limited use since WWI) became the new WMD with threats from Iraq and more recently Syria. World leaders scrambled to develop antidotes and anti-toxins to some of the most significant and most lethal biologicals that could somehow make it into the hands of terrorists to destroy large segments of the civilized world.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how as much as 80% of our prescription medications are imported from India and China, with a significant percentage of the active ingredients coming from China. I mentioned that the current trade wars could create a situation where prescription medications for US citizens would likely become more expensive with rising tariffs.
Recent news articles (Here and Here) indicate that the evolution of the United States outsourcing so much drug manufacturing to other nations over the years not only brings the possibility of price increases, but it also could create a very real crisis of prescription medication shortages if our prescription drug supply were to be held hostage as a negotiating tactic.
Just imagine if our supplies of life-saving antibiotics , for instance, (many of which are generic drugs made in Chinese manufacturing plants) were suddenly cut off. Some antibiotic products are certainly made in the United States, but a little known fact is that the last penicillin factory in the United States closed in 2004 and that manufacturing process was outsourced overseas.
China is the world’s largest exporter of vitamins and other antibiotic raw material in the modern world. China also is a key manufacturer of the active ingredients in blood pressure medications and prescription drugs for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and depression.
Real national security risks exist with Chinese dominance of the global pharmaceutical industry. Retired Brig. Gen. John Adams told NBC News, “Basically, we’ve outsourced our entire (drug) industry to China. That is a strategic vulnerability.” Essentially, Western nations have handed an aggressive foreign government the power to hold all the cards for 21st Century WMDs over our collective heads, with the United States in a unique position to be the most vulnerable with the current trade war instabilities between the US and China.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
A thoughtful discussion, James, and an unnerving one. Thak you! Another potential WMD, non-physical but no less dangerous, is the insideous threat posed by disinformation that is becoming more pervasive on social media.
That’s just scary!
Yes, unnerving and a bit scary. I never thought about my medications being able to hold a country “hostage” but I think we may be heading there.