Today, President Trump will sign an executive order on trade and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. Ava DeSantis writes about what you should know about the upcoming order.
A senior administration official spoke to the press at a briefing this morning concerning the executive order. “It is a great day for America,” the official began, “the President promised that he would bring the change in production for our essential medicine. Today, we are taking a very big step towards fulfillment of that promise.”
A ‘pure Trump’ order
During his 2016 campaign, Trump railed against drug companies pricing products unreasonably. In a cover story for Time Magazine, Trump said “I don’t like what has happened with drug prices.” He accused pharmaceutical industry leaders of lobbying politicians to their advantage, saying in a GOP primary debate “they have a fantastic lobby. They take care of all the senators, the congressmen.”
When Trump won the 2016 election, John Rother, executive director of the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, said “tuesday’s election results are a clear indication that people around the country want change, and one issue that came up again and again on the campaign trail is that Americans are tired of skyrocketing drug prices.”
Today’s executive order will “ensure essential medicines, countermeasures, and critical inputs are made in the United States,” the official explained. “If we’ve learned anything from the China virus pandemic, it is simply that we’re dangerously overdependent on our nation.” The administration official described essential medicines and supplies as “ventilators and the like,” indicating that the order may focus on COVID-19 specific medicines and supplies.
The administration believes pharmaceutical drugs produced overseas have overtaken American markets because of lower health, labor, and tax standards which make production cheaper. “The problem is simply that across the world we have sweatshop labeling,” explained the official. “We have pollution havens.” India, for example, has “an unfair competitive advantage” because of their “lack of regulatory environment.”
The order is a “pure Trump” solution. It will have three major components: a “bi-American component,” a “regulation” component, and a third component which will introduce “continuous manufacturing.”
The bi-American component will require that American agencies, like the Veterans Affairs Agency, are the largest procurers of medicines and medical countermeasures.
The regulation component will address uneven standards for production abroad and at home. According to the official, “we have a situation where both the FDA and the EPA” can walk into an American factory and inspect it, but does not have jurisdiction in “China or India.” This discrepancy allows pharmaceutical companies in these countries to “get away with” health and safety violations. To accomplish this, the administration will “streamline” the American regulatory process.
The third component will introduce “continuous manufacturing” in the US, allowing manufacturers to “do two or all three stages in the production process” at a single site.
“We are dangerously dependent,” the Trump administration official claimed. According to Janet Woodstock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, 72% of pharmaceutical manufacturers of products in American markets are located overseas. 13% of these manufacturers are located in China. The administration is distrustful of foreign involvement in American medicine and health policy. The official casually referred to the World Health Organization as “the colony of China,” during today’s briefing.
Last month, President Trump signed a series of executive orders similarly aimed at curbing foreign pharmaceutical production. On July 24th alone, Trump signed four executive orders to even the cost of foreign and domestic pharmaceuticals. “Under my administration,” Trump said at the signing, “we’re standing up to lobbyists and special interests and fighting back against a rigged system.”