Re: John Derbyshire's blog item Does China Really Make Our Medicines?
From: An Oncologist Reader [Email him]
John Derbyshire pointed out a discrepancy between Tucker Carlson's claim that China made 97% of our meds, and his listener's claim otherwise. Although I am not going to go through the brain damage of looking up the statistics, the bottom line is that both are correct.
I am an oncologist, and deal with these economies all the time. My fairly small oncology practice with two medical oncologists spends over $1 million per month on injectable pharmaceuticals (the costs of the oral medications that are prescribed do not go through our practice but rather via the pharmacy benefit management company and specialty pharmacy, but are comparable).
Yes, the expensive new drugs that you see advertised on TV account for the bulk of spending on pharmaceuticals, so in terms of dollars spent, Derb's listener's list showing Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and France accounting for the bulk of medications is correct. The Big Pharma companies that are developing these new drugs are based in these countries.
However, if you look at the proportion of doses, not dollars, accounted for by China, Carlson is probably correct—there are probably a couple of orders of magnitude difference in the number of doses of, say, lisinopril (a common generic for hypertension) taken by Americans, compared to, say, Keytruda (an expensive, heavily advertised immune therapy for cancer).
The bottom line is that China has cornered the market on the medications taken most frequently by Americans for the most common medical conditions.