Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE
China is determined to present a favorable impression to the world during the Olympic Games. Beijing is extremely polluted. It is desperately trying to decrease the pollution in the city and its surroundings. The pollution could affect the athlete’s performance and health. Many countries have expressed concern.
In order to clean up the air quality for the Olympic Games athletes, Beijing has taken extreme measures shunting down many large commercial plant operations in its vicinity. Many chemical plants in and around Beijing produce ingredients for both generic and brand named drugs. These plants are dirty plants producing significant pollution. The closing of these chemical plants before and after the Olympics will result, at least, in large increases in drug prices globally and, at most ,in life threatening shortages of vital medications throughout the world.
“The expedience of reducing particulate pollution has prompted officials to temporarily shut down chemical production in and around Beijing prior to the Olympics. This crackdown is likely to include pharmaceutical production.”
The Chinese government has been trying to relocate polluting industries and power generating plants away from its large cities. Cleaner plants have already been built in less populated areas. However, the production of particulate matter (microscopic particles toxic to lung tissue) is still twice the admissible level recommended by the World Health Organization. Pollution from particulate matter produces both acute and chronic pulmonary disease. Chinese government officials have temporarily shut down chemical production for two months prior to the Olympics and one month post Olympic Games to decrease particulate matter in the air.
This crackdown affects pharmaceutical production. China is the largest producer in the world of bulk pharmaceuticals known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (API)
“China is the largest producer of bulk pharmaceutical chemicals, also known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), which are made into drugs that supply the world. With India it supplies 40% of the API used in U.S. pharmaceutical production, an amount predicted to increase to 80% by 2020. China provides at least 20% of the APIs used in making Indian generic drugs, as well as about 75% of the intermediate products Indian firms require to synthesize the final products they sell.”
These APIs are used for the production of both brand named and generic drugs. The U.S. press has not discussed the source of production of U.S. brand named drugs.
“For the next two months Western and Indian companies will find it difficult to import most chemical substances including bulk drugs and intermediates from China. This could prove costly to patients and especially costly for the Indian generics industry, because their companies are so reliant on Chinese inputs.”
The price of APIs has increased at least 50% over the past six months.”
This is putting pressure on the pharmaceutical industry’s profit. The increase in price for APIs has been blamed on the increase in the price of oil as well as the decrease in China’s production. This is certainly going to be reflected in the increase in drug prices shortly at all levels.
“Given that many of China’s bulk API manufacturers operate around Beijing product prices will still increase drastically over the next few weeks as supply is constricted from Beijing alone.”
I predict we are going to see the impact of China’s decreased production on the United States drug supply in the next few weeks. I suspect we are going to see life threatening shortages.
One must wonder about this perverse effect of “globalization” on our ability to deliver appropriate medical care if it results in significant shortages of vital medication.
The other perverse effect of globalization is the inability or lack of desire on the part of multinational companies operating throughout China in joint ventures with the Chinese government to protect the environment of the country to the detriment of its citizens in order to product “cheap” medication for the United States and the rest of the world.
“It is impossible to calculate how many lives will be lost because drug prices are rising,”
It is easy to feel that the wheels are coming off the global economy as indiscretions are being tolerated by government. As these indiscretions are revealed one has to wonder if the present direction of globalization is a good idea.