The United States' need for antivirals and immunological products from China steeply declined since the pandemic

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The United States has seen a steep decrease in antiviral and immunological product imports from China since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, declining from a combined peak of $7.3 billion in 2022 to $3.4 billion in 2023.

The pandemic spread so quickly in 2020 that the United States lacked the capacity to produce enough pharmaceuticals to respond. Instead, the United States had no alternative but to import specific categories of pharmaceuticals, namely antivirals and immunological products, to treat SARS-CoV-2. Once the United States started developing novel antivirals for SARS-CoV-2, resources were reallocated to drug discovery, resulting in the decline of pharmaceutical imports from China.

The United States imported only about $30 million of essential medications from China in the early 2000s. It now buys nearly 70 times more, or just over $2 billion. This growth in purchases of essential medications from China is driving fears of dependence, including concerns about national security.

If fears of dependence continue to grow, resources may shift back to the creation of well-known compounds, away from drug innovation and research, reducing the United States’ global advantage in the realm of drug discovery and research and leaving it vulnerable to inevitable future pandemics.

This PIIE Chart is adapted from Monica de Bolle’s blog post, Barring pharmaceutical imports from China would hurt the United States and the world.

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