By Ralph Nader
Dear President Trump:
There is a double peril for consumer safety and our national security for you to ponder during your Labor Day vacation. First, the New York Times reported that China is withholding samples of a dangerous flu virus—the lethal H7N9 avian flu—from U.S. health authorities. A World Health Organization agreement requires participating countries to share potentially dangerous influenza samples “in a timely manner.” These specimens are urgently needed to develop vaccines and treatments in anticipation of a global pandemic emanating from the Chinese mainland, as have other lesser epidemics in the past.
China’s delay in sending these lab samples is being explained as part of China’s response to your trade tariffs—as a signal that China has another strong hand to play. This is truly a dangerous game of chicken. Are you up to considering the gravity of this behavior for both the public health and national security of the peoples of the United States?
The second peril can be placed right on the backs of the giant U.S. drug companies, who you charged earlier were, in your words, “getting away with murder.” You were probably referring to their extreme price gouging and their role in promoting recklessly opioid drugs to both physicians and patients. Well, add some more gravity by giving tweet time and air time to our country’s dangerous dependency of the outsourcing of manufacturing of major drugs and drug ingredients to China and, to a lesser extent, India.
These drugs include: Antibiotics, anticoagulants, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, cancer drugs, birth control pills, and many others. Penicillin is no longer manufactured in the USA.
The immensely profitable U.S. drug companies are not satisfied with the absence of reasonable drug price controls, as are established in most other nations, and billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded research and development, including clinical trials, given away to selected drug giants, nor the billions of dollars in tax credits for their conducting research. They are not satisfied with charging Americans the highest drug prices in the world for the same drugs that are often available for lower prices in other countries. No, they want even more profits. They have put patients in our country in serious jeopardy. One contaminated drug— Heparin, a blood thinner—already took scores of American lives before it was recalled.
If you want a fuller story about the extraordinary amount of dependence on China for drugs and essential ingredients, produced under less than FDA standards would have allowed in this country, please read the new book, China Rx by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh (Prometheus Books). According to Gibson and Singh “Noncompliance with U.S. standards is a deliberate competitive strategy. As long as they aren’t caught, they continue to win contracts. Lower prices discourage production in the United States and force worldwide sourcing, thereby risking poorer quality products.”
Read the favorable comments on the flap by very worried people such as former attorney general Edwin Meese III; Jim Guest, former president of Consumer Reports; Major General Larry J. Lust (Ret.); Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing; Daniel Slane, commissioner, US-China Economic and Security Review Commission; and University of Minnesota professor and author Michael T. Osterholm, arguably the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases.
Your immediate attention should be directed to the ticking time bombs that should not be allowed to tick away on your presidential watch. You are on full public notice that urgent action is necessary.
Thank you for your serious and immediate consideration.