Thursday, 13 June, 2024
HomeWeekly RoundupCOVID-19 puts global pharmaceutical supply chain in danger

COVID-19 puts global pharmaceutical supply chain in danger

Every day, people rely on Chinese companies for life-saving products. The country is the world’s largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients, even if the finished medications get put together in the US or another country. Although it’s too soon to feel any repercussions, the coronavirus outbreak adds uncertainty to that supply, says a Wired report.

“This outbreak just underscores what can happen in a worst-case scenario,” says Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, who has warned about the national security implications of a heavy dependence on China and other countries for vital medicine and medical supplies. “Any kind of supply shock or instability would render the drug supply vulnerable,” he says. “With this outbreak, it is concerning whether or not the stability of our supply chain will remain intact.”

The report says drug manufacturers are required to notify the US Food and Drug Administration of supply disruptions. “At this time, manufacturers have not reported any impact and we will continue to be in communication with manufacturers,” the agency said in a statement. But because China ships raw materials to pharmaceutical plants around the world, which maintain some inventory of ingredients, it may take months for any shortages to affect supply, says Erin Fox, a pharmacist and expert on drug shortages at the University of Utah Health.

The biggest problem is that there is no publicly available information on what portion of which critical medicines originate in China, and specifically where those factories are located, she is quoted in the report as saying. Pharmaceutical companies consider such information to be proprietary.

China has 15% of the world’s facilities that manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients for 370 essential drugs, while the US has 21% of those facilities, according to the FDA. But the agency doesn’t know how much those facilities produce – if they produce anything at all.

That lack of information is unsettling, the report says. “What is the threat to our national health care if there is some kind of geopolitical issue or an outbreak like this or some kind of natural disaster? We really don’t know,” says Michael Ganio, director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

“All it takes is one plant to shut down to cause a global shortage. That’s because there’s such concentration of global production in China,” says Rosemary Gibson, a strong advocate for rebuilding domestic capabilities. “This is a warning to the US and other countries,” she adds. “If you have a supply chain concentrated in a single country, no matter what country it is, that’s a risk of epic proportions.”

[link url="https://www.wired.com/story/the-coronavirus-is-a-threat-to-the-global-drug-supply/"]Full Wired report[/link]

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