China Is the Top Source of U.S. Pharmaceutical Imports, With India and Mexico Also Major Sources

(No, Ireland is not the main U.S. imported medicine source…)

Over the past decade, China has been the largest source of medicine imported into the United States, with India and Mexico vying for second and third depending on the year. The infographics below show the volume of medicine imported by the United States from its top ten import sources over the past decade. The volume data set reflects the amount of actual product that is shipped to the United States.

We also provide the import data for the same period measured on the basis of value of imported medicine to show how some sources have misreported that Ireland is the top U.S. source of imported medicine.

By volume, the top three pharmaceutical import sources in 2019 are China, India and Mexico, with Canada, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain and, finally, Ireland rounding out the rest of the top ten, respectively.

However, by value, the top three pharmaceutical import sources in 2019 are Ireland, Germany and Switzerland, with Italy, India, Belgium, Denmark, Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan rounding out the top rest of the top ten.

While the volume data set represents the amount of medicine that actually is sent to the United States, the value data set reflects the high prices of some medicines protected by monopoly patents as well as pharmaceutical corporations’ tax-avoidance strategies. This includes some firms’ corporate “inversions,” which are when firms relocate their legal “home” to countries with low tax rates and then charge their legal entities in their old base countries’ large patent-licensing fees, which then can be deducted from taxes as a business expense.

The actual sources of most imported medicines and the gap between volume and value data are demonstrated by the infographics below, which show the top ten import sources by volume and their corresponding value.

Top 10 U.S. Sources of Pharmaceutical Imports by Volume vs. Value of Those Imports (2019)

Data Notes: U.S. pharmaceutical import data sourced from the U.S. International Trade Commission. Pharmaceutical drugs are defined as HS 30.

Top 10 U.S. Sources of Pharmaceutical Imports by Volume vs. Value of Those Imports (2019)

Data Notes: U.S. pharmaceutical import data sourced from the U.S. International Trade Commission. Pharmaceutical drugs are defined as HS 30.