Trump to sign ‘Buy American’ executive order for essential drugs

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Thursday that calls on federal agencies to purchase “essential drugs” and medical supplies made in the U.S., rather than from overseas companies who now provide the bulk of those materials.

The order, which Trump will sign at a Whirlpool Corp. manufacturing facility in Ohio, aims to guard against shortages of critical medicines and supplies due to breakdowns in the global supply chain — a concern that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re dangerously overdependent on foreign nations for essential medicines, for medical supplies like masks, gloves, goggles and the like,” said Peter Navarro, Trump’s top trade adviser, on a call with reporters.

The Trump administration isn’t immediately specifying which drugs or supplies should be manufactured in the U.S., instead directing the FDA to make that determination. The order appears to allow for broad exemptions based on cost, availability and “public interest.”

Navarro argued countries like China and India, have an “unfair competitive advantage because of their lack of regulatory environment” and other countries like Ireland have tax incentives in place “designed to pull pharmaceutical manufacturing offshore and into their boarders.” Navarro didn’t indicate that the administration would make new investments or advocate for new tax incentives to bring drug manufacturing onshore — the order, he said, “is not an appropriations bill” and is aimed at establishing government demand for U.S. products.

Only 28 percent of manufacturing facilities making drug ingredients for the U.S. are based in the country, FDA drug chief Janet Woodcock testified to Congress last October. China is home to 13 percent of those facilities, she said.

Other planks of the order aim to cut EPA and FDA regulation to speed development of domestic advance manufacturing for products needed for rapid response to pandemic and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense threats. Navarro argued the efforts to speed FDA approval or clearance will not cut corners saying “we simply want a more rational and streamlined regulatory process.”

Background: The order has been in development for months, but Navarro said it had been held by by legal review in the White House.

It also comes one week after Trump said the federal government will issue Eastman Kodak a $765 million loan to manufacture drug ingredients. Details about how the company obtained the government’s support have come under scrutiny by Democrats and the Securities and Exchange Commission because of stock transactions around the announcement of the deal.


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