Post COVID-19: Is It Time to Bring Drug Manufacturing Back to the US?

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Apex Benefits — The Point Podcast

In the world of pharmacy, we know that our global drug supply chain has been at risk for several years after it moved out of the United States. But post COVID-19, everyone is paying attention to it due to drug shortages and drug recalls. Many of these drug supply chain challenges are due to the same original hot spot for COVID-19 virus itself: China.

Many do not know that nearly 90% of our active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are manufactured in China. Author Rosemary Gibson has published a provocative book entitled ChinaRx that explores the global drug supply chain and drug manufacturing challenges after a three year study of Chinese drug manufacturing. She recently joined us on The Point podcast at Apex Benefits to discuss these issues accelerated during COVID-19:

Listen to the interview with Rosemary Gibson on The Point with Apex Benefits above.

Drug manufacturing outside the US is a national security issue according to Gibson. “We’re so dependent [on Chinese drug manufacturing] that if China shut down for months, the drug supply shelves would be empty. We can’t make penicillin, aspirin, and vitamin C anymore in the US. We have to be self sufficient.”

Shockingly, no one in the US is responsible for tracking active pharmaceutical ingredient production or distribution either.

Wuhan, China is an example of our dependency on drug manufacturing in the US for erythromycin. It is one of the antibiotics key for treatment of infections, and is manufactured in Wuhan. Another recent example Gibson cited in her podcast interview and the book are blood pressure medications, which were recently tainted with jet fuel, out of China.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Rosemary and discuss her book, the effect of COVID-19 on our drug supply chain, why now is a the best time to bring drug manufacturing back to the United States, and how we could do it affordably and with lower environmental impact.

In addition, Gibson discusses other steps for action to improve our own drug safety in the US:

  • Asking your pharmacist or health care provider where your drugs come from,
  • Researching where your drugs come from at sites like DailyMed or the Food & Drug Administration,
  • Sharing with your Congressional representatives your concern about access to affordable, secure and safe drugs and suggesting they return to the US.

This past week, it was announced that nonprofit Civica is partnering to bring pharmaceutical drug manufacturing on some APIs back to the US. This is the first step of many, hopefully to come.


Erin Albert is Pharmacy Benefit Practice Lead with Apex Benefits. Opinions above are Albert’s own, or Gibson’s. Link to the book, ChinaRx:

Pharmacist, author, lawyer, entrepreneur and The Edutainer Podcast Producer. Opining is my own.

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