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President Trump's new executive order has loopholes. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that would require the federal government to buy "essential medicines" and certain medical supplies from American manufacturing plants.

The big picture: Similar to Trump's recent executive orders that target drug prices, it's unclear how much this policy would change the drug and device supply chain, and there are several loopholes.

How it works: Under the executive order, which is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical and drug supply industries, the Food and Drug Administration has 30 days to make a list of medications, drug ingredients and medical devices that federal agencies would have to purchase from U.S. manufacturing facilities.

Yes, but: The executive order does not apply if the drugs and supplies are not already made in the U.S., or if the policy would "cause the cost of the procurement to increase by more than 25 percent."

Between the lines: The coronavirus outbreak raised concerns that the country is too reliant on foreign manufacturing, especially if things unexpectedly shut down and create shortages of lifesaving drugs and protective gear.

  • But experts say drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies and others involved in making and dispensing drugs and supplies have strong financial incentives to produce and buy cheap — especially when it comes to generic drugs — and that usually means looking overseas.
  • A vast majority of pharmaceutical ingredients, for example, are made in China and India. The executive order doesn't change the lower cost of labor or materials in those countries.

"It's not going to have a major impact," said Awi Federgruen, a supply chain professor at Columbia Business School. "You've got to create an incentive structure that will simply make it attractive for manufacturers to produce here rather than produce overseas."

Go deeper

Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president"

Michael Caputo. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In September, Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo privately pitched one branch of the agency's $250 million coronavirus ad campaign with the theme: "Helping the President will Help the Country," according to documents released by House Democrats on the Oversight Committee on Thursday.

Why it matters: These are the latest documents that suggest the deep politicization of the Trump administration's coronavirus response.

20 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.

Oct 29, 2020 - World

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing" and the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus for the achievement, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China