Trump signs executive order to boost U.S. drug manufacturing

CLYDE, Ohio/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order aimed at boosting U.S. production of medicines and medical equipment, lowering drug prices and protecting the United States against shortfalls in a future pandemic.

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Trump said the order would also support advanced manufacturing processes that would benefit U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

The long-awaited measure includes a "Buy America" provision mandating federal purchases of certain medical supplies and equipment deemed essential and moves to remove regulatory hurdles to approval of new U.S. drugs, the Republican president told workers at a Whirlpool WHR.N washing machine factory in Clyde, Ohio.

The order had been expected for months as part of a drive by the Trump administration to pull back supply chains from China.

“As we’ve seen in this pandemic, the United States must produce essential equipment, supplies and pharmaceuticals for ourselves. We cannot rely on China and other nations across the globe, that could one day deny us products in a time of need,” Trump said. “We have to be smart.”

In wide-ranging remarks, Trump took aim at China’s trade policies and blasted presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama for failing to recognize the threat posed by China to U.S. manufacturing.

“During the course of the next four years, we will bring our pharmaceutical and medical supply chains home,” he said. “And we’ll end reliance on China just like we did with the washers and dryers ... we’ll be making our product here.”

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U.S. companies were skeptical about the order as it evolved, warning that it could trigger potential backlash from China and other suppliers at a time when more than 1,000 people a day are dying of COVID-19 in the United States.

Senior White House adviser Peter Navarro said it was critical to act now to prevent future crises and ensure sufficient demand so U.S. companies could affordably manufacture pharmaceuticals at home, ending their reliance on key ingredients and supplies from China.

Navarro said the order would also crack down on internet sales of counterfeit medicines, many of which he said came from China.

The Buy America provisions would require the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. military and the Veterans Administration to procure only U.S.-made goods to meet certain essential needs, Navarro said.

The order also directs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to give priority status to U.S. drug ingredient manufacturers during their regulatory review process.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot