Trump’s “Buy American Order” for drugs does not go far enough

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Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wears a face mask to reduce the chance of transmitting the novel coronavirus and arrives to vote at the U.S. Capitol on May 18, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has put the spotlight on US reliance on foreign countries for key pharmaceutical products.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month directing the Food and Drug Administration to compile a list of essential drugs and urging the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs to purchase critical drugs from domestic suppliers.

“We cannot rely on China and other nations around the world to one day withhold products from us in times of need,” Trump said on August 6 in a speech at a hot tub factory in Clyde, Ohio.

But Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Tina Smith from Minnesota are urging Trump to continue addressing the problem.

“We have passed legislation, the US Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Defense and Enhancement Act, which requires extensive measures to revise the domestic manufacturing of critical drugs and their key raw materials and to address weaknesses in our country’s supply chain,” the senators wrote in a letter to the President on Wednesday.

“We hope that you will work with Congress in a bipartisan way to pass this bill and fill this public health and national security void.”

The senators want his support for their legislation introduced in July. The bill would increase funding for government agencies to buy domestically manufactured drugs, promote drug development in the United States, and require drug makers to report information about their supply chains to the FDA annually.

“Without these sensible measures, your executive order will not help address this legitimate national security and public health issue,” they wrote.

The letter comes as the government and Democrats battle over the next round of virus aid. The president’s orders to defer payroll taxes and extend unemployment insurance are limited because taxes are still owed and unemployment benefits are administered by the state.

Senators Warren and Smith describe the Pharmaceutical EO as “vague and inadequate”.

According to the FDA, the USA imports more than 70 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients, the raw chemicals used to manufacture drugs, with the EU, India and China being the largest suppliers. Production has shifted worldwide over the decades to countries with more favorable tax incentives, less restrictive environmental laws and / or lower labor costs.

The President and the legislature agree that the over-reliance on foreign components poses a serious risk to public health and national security.

The president’s executive order also calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten regulations, including speeding up site selection and approving permits for domestic production.

Warren and Smith are suspicious of the government’s drive to deregulate and question the move. Said.

The White House responded with a statement from Peter Navarro, director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing, that the president was taking action while the Democrats “fumble” in Congress. He added, “We would be delighted to be working in a bipartisan effort to turn this potent EO into law immediately, but send snappy CYA letters trying to fix the Democrats’ failure on this issue in the middle of one Overplaying the election cycle does not seem to be in good faith. “

Government efforts to boost domestic drug production have been chaotic at times. A $ 765 million government loan to Kodak for the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients is on hold while the Securities and Exchange Commission investigates the company’s disclosure of the transaction, which it announced in late July.

Warren has also called on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to conduct an investigation. “The fiasco surrounding the decision to offer and then withdraw the Kodak loan also raises major questions about corruption, nepotism and mismanagement in the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19,” she wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to the acting chairman of the committee, Michael Horowitz.

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