President Trump to sign a ‘buy American first’ pharma executive order

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President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order on hiring American workers, during a meeting with U.S. tech workers, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Thursday directing some federal agencies to only purchase certain drugs and medical materials when they are made in the United States.

The order will specifically direct the Defense Department, Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs to source their supplies from manufacturers within the United States — and away from major producers located in China and India.

The scope of the order remains unclear, because it will direct the FDA to produce a list of “essential medicines, medical countermeasures and critical input” that will be covered by the new requirements.

It comes after an initial scramble within the United States to obtain medical supplies and equipment at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, much of which has been produced or sourced from abroad. Earlier in the pandemic, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel American companies to produce medical supplies and equipment. Thursday’s order marks what the administration sees as a solution in the case in case there’s another spike in demand for medical supplies.

The move will undoubtedly mark a shift in the way the US sources its drugs and medical supplies moving forward.

“We’re dangerously overdependent on foreign nations for our essential medicines, for medical supplies … and medical equipment like ventilators,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, a trade hawk, said on call Thursday.

The order “establishes a base level of demand to attract a level of investment sufficient to provide for the needs we have for these things we need in times of trouble,” he added.

China has been the dominating global player in the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). And in the US, 90% of all prescriptions are filled by generic drugs and, one in every three pills consumed is produced by an Indian generics manufacturer, according to an April 2020 study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and KPMG.

India gets around 68% of its raw materials — known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) — from China.

Thursday’s executive order will also eliminate some regulatory barriers for manufacturing and pharmaceuticals in the US. Specifically, Navarro said the order would target manufacturing regulations imposed by the US Food & Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. In one example, Navarro brought up the FDA’s unannounced walk-in inspection policy at medical manufacturing facilities, which will be “no more.”

Another component of the order will “catalyze advanced manufacturing in continuous manufacturing techniques,” Navarro said.

The order marks the latest issue the Trump administration has aimed at the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, Trump signed four executive orders aimed at lowering drug prices. And over the last week, the President has assured several times that the pharmaceutical industry’s latest ads against him were a result of his recent efforts.

“Every time you see a negative Big Pharma commercial against me remember, it means your drug prices are coming way down!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

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