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Trump orders agencies to purchase U.S. made drugs and medical supplies

The order could disrupt the global pharmaceutical supply chain, jeopardizing the ability to respond to COVID-19, PhRMA says.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order establishing a "buy American first" policy on the purchase of essential medicines, medical devices and their components and personal protective equipment.

The order requires U.S. agencies to purchase essential medicines and medical supplies from domestic sources, instead of from foreign countries such as China.

It will be up to the Food and Drug Administration to produce a list of critical supplies, including the essential drugs.

"The United States must protect our citizens, critical infrastructure, military forces, and economy against outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats," the order states. "To achieve this, the United States must have a strong Public Health Industrial Base with resilient domestic supply chains for Essential Medicines, Medical Countermeasures, and Critical Inputs deemed necessary for the United States." 

This includes threats from emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Trump directs each executive department and agency involved in the procurement of essential medicines and medical supplies outlined in the order to consider a variety of actions to increase their domestic procurement and to identify vulnerabilities in the nation's supply chain. 

Within 180 days of the date of the order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the FDA Commissioner and in consultation with the Director of Office of Management and Budget, are to take action to identify vulnerabilities in the supply chain for essential medicines, medical devices and equipment.


The order is aimed at reducing U.S. dependence on foreign manufacturers in light of the scarcity of domestic supplies and reliance on imports during COVID-19.

It aligns with Trump policy to "buy American."

"Buy American and hire American," the president said Thursday during a stop at the Whirlpool plant in Clyde, Ohio. "For essential medicines, we buy American." 

Peter Navarro, assistant to the President and director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, announced the executive order during a press call Thursday morning.

Navarro tweeted Thursday, "This Exec Order pure President Trump – it establishes Buy American rules for govt. agencies, strips away regulatory barriers to domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing, and catalyzes the Advanced Manufacturing technologies needed to keep drug prices low."

Government agencies bound by the order include the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department, according to Navarro. 

Navarro also said the requirement would help establish demand for investment in the manufacturing process, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The plan would keep drug prices down by creating economies of scale and reducing waste, through continuous manufacturing techniques, for example.

However, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President and CEO Stephen J. Ubl said the "Buy American" executive order could disrupt the global pharmaceutical supply chain, jeopardizing the ability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and potentially lead to major long-term supply chain disruptions, including shortages.

"Rather than government mandates, we should look for policies that enable more domestic manufacturing without putting the stability of pharmaceutical supply chains at risk," he said. "The administration is forcing biopharmaceutical companies to shift their critical attention and resources away from COVID-19 work to focus on making substantial changes to their business models necessary to comply with this and other recent executive orders. Increasing U.S. manufacturing of medicines is a laudable goal, but it cannot happen overnight and should not come at the expense of medical innovation or Americans' access to the medicines they need."

PhRMA has also spoken out against previous executive orders signed by Trump in late July that would impose price controls and reinstate drug rebates rules.


The order accelerates the development of cost-effective and efficient domestic production of essential medicines and medical countermeasures so that there's an adequate redundancy built into the domestic supply chain, the order states.

It is the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration to boost domestic production. During the pandemic, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel American companies to produce medical supplies and equipment. 

With the upcoming November presidential election, Trump several times took aim at rival and presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.

Speaking at the Whirlpool plant, Trump touted his efforts to impose a 50% tariff on all foreign-made washing machines and said that other leaders, including President Barack Obama and former Vice President Biden, capitulated on foreign trade.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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