The emergence of the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the glaring truth and danger of how dependent the U.S. is on pharmaceutical imports. Critical shortages of vital pharma and medical resources have hindered the federal government's pandemic response efforts. Experts now say it's time to reduce the reliance on other countries that America has built up over decades in this sector.

Domestic efforts

President Trump announced in May that he is focused on rebuilding the U.S. stockpile of medical supplies with the help of the federal government’s development finance agency. As a part of this “America First” approach, he signed an executive order giving the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) the power to issue loans to domestic companies to boost supplies instead of investing in other countries.

According to him, this move will bring pharmaceutical producers, vital factories, and jobs back home. He further stated that he had used the Defense Production Act to back his executive order. The DFC would focus on reshoring critical industries in the U.S. without touching the $60 billion investment cap for emerging markets.

Will this help?

If executed properly, it can help create a national stockpile of medical supplies to create a buffer for the future and prevent the depletion of resources as has happened during this pandemic. The administration hopes to add critical drugs and testing supplies, 67 million medical gowns, and over 300 million N95 masks to the stockpile over the next few months.

The Food and Drug Administration reported last year that only 28% of the active ingredient manufacturing facilities for medicines sold in the U.S. are domestic. Close to three-quarters are located offshore.

While China has prioritized pharmaceutical manufacturing, the United States has invested heavily in drug discovery, research, and development over the years. American thought leaders are now urging Congress to embrace policies to secure America's pharmaceutical supply chain and revitalize this industry at home.

Trump's executive order to manufacture essential drugs in the U.S. may prevent future situations where we race to find supplies of medical equipment and test supplies from abroad. Since then, there has been a substantial increase in demand for active ingredients domestically.

Many industries pivoted to supply masks and surgical equipment in times of need. Then, there are the ongoing pharmaceutical advancements and innovations around COVID-19 medications, all of which have added to demand.

Maintaining the quality of healthcare

America still leads the world in biopharmaceutical innovation and manufacturing. Amid the global public health pandemic, both private and public sector enterprises have shown the unparalleled value of this leadership.

However, a Fox News report asks to ponder the effects of domestic manufacturing before making big decisions on massive changes to critical supply lines. Sudden domestic production shifts for critically needed prescription drugs and medical supplies may increase prices for consumers and ultimately diminish the quality and speed of care delivered by U.S. healthcare professionals.

America should not depend on foreign suppliers for essential products, as the pandemic has shown us. However, all prescription medications and medical devices cannot be domestically produced and manufactured without jacking up the cost. We need essential life-saving materials, including personal protective equipment and medicines, to help businesses and masses to go back to work safely.

Closing down all global supply chain lines may slow that process down, something we can ill-afford at the moment. The need of the hour is decisive steps towards a long-term plan for controlled-cost pharma manufacturing.