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China's Lock on Drugs

Steve Sternberg | May 09, 2018 12:00 AM

Two pillars of Trump administration policy – combating the soaring prices for prescription drugs and equalizing the U.S. trade imbalance with China – appear to be on a collision course, drug and foreign policy experts say.

That's because the key ingredients for so many essential drugs, from antibiotics and birth control pills to treatments for cancer, depression, high cholesterol and HIV/AIDS, are purchased from China, says Rosemary Gibson, co-author with Janardan Prasad Singh of a new book called "ChinaRx: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine."

China has exclusive manufacturing agreements for drugs for anesthesia, cancer and HIV/AIDS, along with other medicines that "we use every day, not only in hospitals but in our own medicine chests," Gibson says, adding that China is now the world's only source of antibiotics, including the main ingredient in vancomycin, a treatment of last resort that is used by patients who are suffering from infections that are resistant to other treatment.

"It's a huge dramatic shift and nobody knows about it," Gibson says. "And they're just ramping up. It's all part of a plan that China laid out in its 2025 initiative to become the pharmacy to the world."

President Donald Trump had planned to deliver a long-anticipated speech on prescription drug prices as early as Tuesday, but news reports now suggest the administration will delay the address. It could not be determined whether the delay was prompted by the administration's discussions with Beijing over trade policy. Continue Reading