President Donald Trump said he signed an executive order Thursday requiring the federal government to buy "essential" drugs from U.S. companies.
"We cannot rely on China and other nations across the globe that could one day deny us products," Trump said Thursday from the Whirlpool Corporation Manufacturing Plant in Clyde, Ohio. "As we've seen in this pandemic, the U.S. must produce essential equipment supplies and pharmaceuticals for ourselves."
White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said earlier in the day that Trump was expected to sign the order, called "buy American," during his trip to Ohio.
Using a racially charged description of the virus, Navarro said: "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.
Trump said the executive order is aimed at turning the U.S. into the "premiere medical manufacture, pharmacy and drug store of the world.
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.