With coronavirus cases in the United States rising and states struggling to combat the outbreak, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday mandating that the government buy what he called "essential drugs" from U.S. manufacturers instead of foreign companies.
"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 threats," the president's order said. "It is critical that we reduce our dependence on foreign manufacturers for essential medicines, medical countermeasures and critical inputs ... to minimize potential shortages, and to mobilize our nation's public health industrial base to respond to these threats."
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the order would require the U.S. government to develop a list of essential medicines and buy them from U.S. companies instead of from countries such as China.
"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," Navarro said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
Navarro said the order "establishes 'buy American' rules for our government agencies, strips away regulatory barriers to domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing," and it also could boost manufacturing technologies needed to keep drug prices low.
But not all drug companies will be happy with the president's "buy American" order.
The head of the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Stephen Ubl, said Trump had created "even more barriers" to innovation and efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
"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," Ubl said.
He said a better alternative to government mandates would be a policy that enables more U.S. manufacturing without creating instability in pharmaceutical supply chains.