Globalization and its discontents don’t get starker for me than the recent scare regarding the recall of most of the United State’s supply of the medicine Heparin. Somewhere in the chain of actors responsible for manufacturing the drug, most likely somewhere in China, a drug was added to the mixture that mimicked the actions of the real drug. Unfortunately, the drug was added in lieu of the customary ingredients, rendering the entire drug worthless.
Heparin is used throughout hospitals worldwide as a blood thinner. In 2006, I spent two weeks hooked up to an IV of Heparin as I fought off a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lung. If the Heparin hadn’t helped dissolve the clot, my option was a clot busting drug that carried a very small chance of causing a cerebral hemmorhage.
If this scare wasn’t enough to send a chill through me, the photo in the NY Times article of the small family workshop in China where the first step in the manufacture of Heparin begins sent me around the bend. The manufacture of Heparin starts by extracting mucous membranes from pig intestines. Chitlins saved my life!
So, forget offshoring Heparin manufacture to some back-alley Chinese outfit. Just go to the Chitlin’ Strut held every year in Salley, South Carolina. I went once back in the 1980’s, they’ve got more kinds of chitlins than you could believe. (I liked the deep-fried with hot sauce). The town swells from 410 to over 50,000 during the Strut and helps fund charities in the area. Imagine what kind of programs they could fund with a Heparin plant!