Trump signs order to boost production of "essential" drugs in US

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order requiring the federal government to purchase "essential" medicines from US companies. "As we've seen in this pandemic, the US must produce essential equipment supplies and pharmaceuticals for ourselves," Trump said, adding "we will bring our pharmaceutical and medical supply chains home…and we will end reliance on China."

According to White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, the order will require the government to develop a list of essential medicines and for agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department to buy them from US companies rather than foreign firms. The World Health Organization already has a list of essential medicines, but the US will not need some of those drugs because of "where we are located," he said.

Navarro noted that the order would require deregulation, including a provision for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator to streamline processes for the development of advanced manufacturing facilities, and it will also fast-track the review process to make certain drug ingredients. He suggested the EPA, along with the FDA, "can make a very significant difference in terms of reducing the time to production and therefore the cost of production." Moreover, Navarro said the plan would keep drug prices down by creating economies of scale and cutting waste, including through continuous manufacturing techniques.

However, he declined to estimate the quantity of production the administration is seeking to bring to the US, "but at a minimum, we need to have enough production to deal with pandemics or [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] threats…We are a long ways from that."

The action is the latest executive order from Trump on drugs. Late last month, he signed four executive orders aimed at lowering US drug prices, including one that would allow drug imports from Canada, and another that could potentially implement a "favoured nations" plan requiring Medicare to purchase drugs at the same price that other countries pay.

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