Trump to sign executive order requiring government to buy ‘essential’ drugs from U.S. companies

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2020.

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order requiring the federal government to buy “essential” drugs from U.S. companies, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro announced Thursday.

The president is expected to sign the order, called “buy American,” during his trip to Ohio later Thursday, Navarro told reporters. “If we’ve learned anything from the China virus pandemic, it is that we are dangerously overdependent on foreign nations for our essential medicines, for medical supplies like masks gloves, goggles and medical equipment like ventilators.”

The order will require the government to develop a list of essential medicines and buy them as well as medical supplies from U.S. companies instead of from foreign countries like China, Navarro said. The World Health Organization already has a list of essential medicines, but the U.S. won’t need some of those drugs because of “where we are located,” he said. 

The order will also remove some of the regulations U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers face and will fast-track the review process to make certain drug ingredients, he said. “For example, in terms of inspections the FDA makes, the FDA can walk in any pharmaceutical manufacturer in the U.S. unannounced and inspect. If they try to do that in China or India, these governments would tell them to come back and maybe we’ll let you in.”

Another component will “combat” the importation of counterfeit medicines on e-commerce platforms, he said. 

The order comes as the U.S. continues to fight the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 5 million Americans and killed at least 158,268, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Early in the outbreak, the FDA warned consumers of disruptions to the medical supply chain, including shortages of prescription drugs and critical medical products in the United States. The U.S. has faced a shortage of some medicines as some of the pharmaceutical ingredients were made predominantly by China.

Last month, Trump announced a $765 million deal with Kodak to make ingredients needed to make generic drugs in response to the pandemic. 

The action is the latest executive order from Trump on drugs. Late last month, he signed four executive orders designed to bring U.S. drug prices at least on par with their costs overseas. 

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