The COVID-19 crisis revealed how reliant the United States has become on imported masks, ventilators and other essential medical goods after decades of outsourcing domestic production capacity.
Medicine supplies are even more vulnerable. Not only do we rely heavily for imports for many categories of drugs, but the building blocks – called Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) – are now mainly only produced in just two countries – China and India.
With workers falling ill and plants closing for social distancing, production there has declined. And domestic production cannot easily make up the difference.
Decades of bad trade deals have helped corporations outsource U.S. production capacity to countries where they could pay workers less. Plus, to avoid the competition that brings down process, a handful of big pharmaceutical companies have bought up smaller firms and shuttered their factories.
The result—just when we most need a reliable supply of critical medicines, the hyperglobalized production system is failing us all.
One of the world’s leading experts on medicine supply chains, award-winning author of China Rx author Rosemary Gibson and leading advocate for affordable medicines, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) discuss how this happened and what we can do to change it.