Trump signs supply chain executive order directing U.S. to rely on domestic pharmaceutical products
President Donald Trump signed an executive order late Thursday that demands the U.S. begin relying on American-made medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. The president made clear the order is in direct response to the coronavirus outbreak.
He will also will direct his cabinet to improve the availability of industrial single-use face masks and general-use respirators to health care professionals. In recent days, those healthcare workers have had to rely on commercially available face masks or resort to re-using masks that are supposed to be for one-time use only.
Health systems around the country are grappling with dwindling supplies of protective N95 face masks due to a shortage of a critical component that make the masks effective. The material comes from China, which is keeping medical supplies at home as they battle the coronavirus that first appeared there.
“President Trump is focused on the health of the American people, and so his administration has taken action to provide protection to manufacturers that will enable production of millions of additional masks for our healthcare providers,” a memo from the White House stated Wednesday before the executive order was announced overnight Friday..
Although details of the executive order are scarce, Sen. Marco Rubio told ACV Reports that the measure is “a very strong first step toward increasing domestic production by enforcing Buy American requirements for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.” The executive order also tells the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fast-track approval for coronavirus tests, treatments, medications, and other assorted needs.
Besides making key ingredients that go into pharmaceuticals, China is also the supplier of a main component, that makes the N95 masks effective. (Photo: Washington Post)
China is a key supplier of drug active ingredients, the chemical components that make drugs work, and finished medicines for the U.S. market. Those include the active ingredients for antibiotics and pills to treat common chronic conditions such as heart disease.
Many of those “active ingredients” are eventually shipped to places like India, where they are made into medication, which is then sent to the United States. The supply chain does keep some costs down but in a global pandemic — particularly one that originates in China or southeast Asia — it can make necessary goods scarce.
Right now, U.S. efforts are focused on certain forms of antibiotics, anti-viral medications, and respiratory treatments, all of which are used for supportive care of patients with coronavirus symptoms, because there is no approved medicine to treat the virus.
“China has managed to dominate all aspects of the supply chain using the same unfair trade practices that it has used to dominate other sectors — cheap sweatshop labor, lax environmental regulations and massive government subsidies,” White House Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro said Thursday. “President Trump has made clear, what we need to do is bring those jobs home so that we can protect the public health and the economic and national security of the country.”
Congress has also formed a “supply chain caucus” which, they say, will help “strengthen and add resiliency to protect the delivery system, which can be severely harmed by geopolitical events such as the recent coronavirus outbreak that has had significant impacts on global supply chains,” according to a statement from the panel released earlier this week.