Tracking Poisoned Medicine From China to the US
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Tracking Poisoned Medicine From China to the US


WASHINGTON – January 10, 2019

Innovative Chinese medical technology is currently being introduced for the entire population, despite the fact that the previously-used traditional medicine was mainly available to the elite.

Today, China is not only a manufacturer of many drugs and medical equipment but also the largest exporter to countries such as the United States and Russia and those in Europe.

Chinese medicine emerged in ancient times, quite different from modern healthcare. For many centuries, doctors and healers have accumulated information and knowledge and various therapeutic folk remedies that form the basis of Chinese traditional medicine, often associated with mythical and religious beliefs. They carefully recorded all the information and passed it from generation to generation orally and through treatises and special medical books. According to Chinese historiography, more than 1,800 works devoted to medicine were created, which to this day are the most valuable sources and monuments of Chinese thought.

Recipes and methods of treatment have been described in many papers, dictionaries and treatises. Among them the most known are Erya (III-IIV. BC), the treatise Huang Neijing and the 9 books of the treatise Su Wen.

According to medical statistics, there was a health crisis before the formation of the People's Republic of China characterized by a high child mortality rate resulting from the centuries-old practice of traditional medicine. The average life expectancy was 35 years, and 1 in 5 children born died.

In the 20th century, with the end of the revolutions in China, it became possible to create a powerful health care system that required huge funds and governmental effort. With the beginning of Mao Zedong's rule, the extensive development of modern medicine began. In many cities, hospitals began to appear with good conditions for favorable treatment and various schools and institutes were created for the training of medical staff and doctors with high qualifications.

By the 1970s, the health care system was already multi-stage and sufficiently developed, with increased medicinal control, prevention of diseases, and patient condition, including better sanitation. According to some indicators, China has already begun to overtake many developed countries. For example, the smallpox was completely eliminated in China in the 60’s.

In 1979, the existing and now thriving GE company was established, which provides innovative technologies and services and medical care for the new era. With its help, numerous medical diagnostics are carried out at low prices and the development of drugs, biological pharmaceutical technologies, and the high professionalism of employees are ensured.

In the 1970s, China began to export goods to other countries, with the US as one of the first importers.

In the 2000s, health care in China continued to improve. An American economist, Bergsten, wrote in the early 2000s: "According to the world health organization (who), life expectancy in China increased from 35 years in the 1950s to 71 years in 2003. The infant mortality rate in China has declined from 20% in some years of the twentieth century to 2.5% today. Basically, the improvement in the health situation was due to rapid economic development and a state-funded disease prevention program."

Recall that since the 1970s, China has been exporting a large number of its breakthrough medical innovations to other countries.

In particular, China has become the largest supplier of the active ingredient of aspirin and acetaminophen, present in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medicines. China is to this day also the dominant global supplier for essential ingredients in penicillin and for vitamin C, used in vitamin supplements, cereals, soda, and hamburger buns. It is also the largest exporter of medical equipment, with about 20,000 items for sale.

China is also the largest global exporter of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, the active ingredient needed to manufacture the antidote to anthrax, used in attacks that occurred after 9/11.

The medicine is also an acute poison, often used to torture prisoners. Tibetans and Uighur Muslims used ciprofloxacin only as a punishment, but not for medical purposes, and the US has been known to use the Chinese drug with people on death row.

In the 1990s, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid discovered in 1959, appeared in the American underground market. Underground laboratory chemists took more than 50 years to establish its production and reduce the cost. Currently, fentanyl is 10% cheaper than heroin, but its effect is 60 times stronger than heroin.

Today New York is one of the biggest fentanyl capitals of the US, where police seized 375 pounds of the drug in the first 10 months of last year--about 15 times more than three years ago.

The origin of most of the New York fentanyl is unknown, but it has been proven that at least 20% of the opioid poison arrived on cargo ships from China -- its criminal organizations are trying to gain a foothold in the American drug market.

Also, with the formation of drug cartels across the US-Mexico border, China has become one of the main suppliers of dangerous drugs. China still transits heroin and other opioid drugs through Mexico to the United States.

Trump has repeatedly spoken about this, calling for a border wall.

Concern over China's territorial, military, and economic aggressiveness has been building over the past decade as the country is increasingly perceived as a threat to the United States, US Asian allies, and the West. To date, the only salvation for the US is a trade war with China and the introduction of duties on various goods. For example, China has recently stated that it does not exclude the introduction of duties on medical goods. They did not specify which goods they were referring to. However, as mentioned above, China carries out large deliveries in transit to the United States.

Many questions about this global problem are described in the book China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine (Prometheus Books, 2018) by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh.

Tracking Poisoned Medicine From China to the US

Both authors argue that because of these problems, China represents a grave threat to the US and its strategic position in the world. American jobs, businesses, and national security and the general health and welfare of its citizens are compromised as the US increasingly loses control of the supply of critical medicines, drug ingredients, and even medical devices. The loss of manufacturing capability and US dependence on a single source could result in manipulative shortages as critical drugs are withheld for a political or economic quid pro quo. American consumers could become the victims of price manipulations and compromises in product efficacy and quality.

And it is important to note that the United States is already a drug-dependent country, and the production of its drugs doesn't bode well for the lives of ordinary people.

Gibson and Singh begin their book explaining that drug manufacturing has changed dramatically in the past two to three decades, with China achieving primary global supplier status. Part of that rise, according to the authors, occurred after Chinese companies dumped penicillin ingredients on the global market in 2004, forcing Western countries, who couldn't compete on price, out of business. Eventually, China instituted a major price increase on these vital ingredients.

As for the supply of vitamin C to the United States, as previously mentioned, in 2005, Chinese firms allegedly created an artificial shortage of vitamin C in the US by restricting production and exports. A class action suit, with overwhelming evidence of collusion presented at trial, resulted in an eight-year battle that found Chinese companies guilty of conspiring to fix prices. China was ordered to pay $162 million in damages to US firms. The Chinese government, which has investigated US-based companies for antitrust violations in the sale of drugs in China, appealed the decision under the pretext that the US was interfering with China's sovereignty and its laws that set minimum export prices and production targets.

The authors also explore the role of US drug companies in China's pharmaceutical dominance, citing the lack of transparency in drug labeling, which enables drug companies to hide the country of origin of active ingredients. Typically, a domestic pharmaceutical company will source drug components from other countries and manufacture the finished product in the US, thereby earning a "Made in America" label and avoiding full disclosure to patients.

In addition, as is known, many pharmaceutical companies today offer China companies the manufacture of medicines based on a substitute substance and after their import into the country under the guise of medication "from the United States." According to many experts, this experience is widespread and even legal. But no one takes into account the real composition of imported substances, trusting only official papers.

In addition, by manufacturing in China, drug companies avoid FDA regulations and inspections; enjoy low prices; and turn a blind eye to potentially contaminated, low-potency, or counterfeit medicines. The FDA has failed to require inspections of drug-making plants in China, and pharmaceutical companies utilizing Chinese plants do so at their discretion. In China, as in many countries outside the US, safe drug-production procedures, quality testing, and expiration dating and labeling requirements are ignored.  In this way, counterfeit and unapproved drugs can be sent to legitimate manufacturers and used to produce legitimate drugs. Chinese companies have provided false documents and refused to submit to audits. Gibson and Singh decry the unfair advantage that China enjoys in drug manufacturing, with very few of the hundreds of Chinese plants inspected annually while US facilities are inspected every two years. In 2008, to ameliorate the situation, the FDA opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou and posted inspectors at US ports of entry to stop banned products from entering the country.

Following deadly Heparin contamination in 2008, six companies voluntarily agreed to an FDA test of their supply of the drug, while others refused. Heparin, a blood thinner used to prevent blood clotting for 12 million seriously ill people annually, was subject to a voluntary recall, as the FDA lacked the authority for a mandate and has limited authority to publicly release information about companies responsible for the contamination. Many US hospitals, failing to interpret the voluntary recall as urgent, kept the fatal drug on their shelves.

In their book, Gibson and Singh support the view that medicines should be viewed as a vital strategic resource for the well-being of the country's citizens. They recommend several solutions. First, the US must track and forecast drug demand and supply and provide information on countries and companies that supply medicines and key ingredients. The government must also perform risk assessments on product reliability and any potential for supply disruptions or shortages. Additionally, it is critical to prioritize the supply of essential drugs, provide incentives for domestic drug production to level the playing field, ensure that the military is not dependent on China for medicine, and increase FDA testing and oversight of all pharmaceutical products made in China.

Otherwise, according to the authors of the book, China will not only gradually kill the population of a huge country, but will also become a pimp for the American economy for life.

Author: USA Really