Trump admin awards contract to make COVID-19 drugs in US

The pandemic has laid bare US dependence on China and India for drugs and raw materials for making medicines.

Trump admin drug contract
Supplies of raw ingredients and finished medicines needed to treat patients hospitalised with COVID-19 have been squeezed as demand has soared in the wake of the pandemic [File: Amit Dave/Reuters]

Looking to lessen dependence on foreign supply chains for critical medicines in the fight against coronavirus, the Trump administration has awarded a contract worth up to $812m for a newly formed United States company to manufacture drugs and drug ingredients to fight COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the US dependence on China and India for both drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients – APIs – the raw materials needed to make medicines.

The US Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday it had awarded a four-year, $354m contract to privately-held Phlow Corp to make COVID-19 drugs, other essential drugs and their ingredients.

The contract can be extended for up to $812m over 10 years.

“For far too long, we’ve relied on foreign manufacturing and supply chains for our most important medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients while placing America’s health, safety, and national security at grave risk,” Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, said in a statement.

Phlow echoes that sentiment on its website, stating: “The United States’ drug supply chain is broken, becoming dangerously dependent upon Foreign Suppliers for our most essential generic medicines.”

The drug company, which was incorporated in January, said the contract will help it contribute to a national stockpile of APIs and has already started making those ingredients and finished dosage forms for over a dozen essential medicines to treat hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

Phlow also says it has delivered more than 1.6 million doses of five essential generic medicines used to treat COVID-19 patients to the US Strategic National Stockpile.

Supplies of many of these medicines have been squeezed as demand has soared in the wake of the pandemic.

India and China account for a vast majority of active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make drugs in the US.

“More than 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients are produced overseas,” Phlow says on its website. “The manufacturing of generic drugs in the US is vulnerable to disruptions in foreign drug supply chains – this has been made more pressing by recent trade wars and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Phlow has partnered with other groups, including Civica Rx, Ampac Fine Chemicals and the Medicines for All Institute to manufacture the medicines.

All pharmaceutical products by Phlow will be made on American soil, according to the company’s website. The company said it is working to build advanced manufacturing capability in Virginia, as well as sterile injectables manufacturing facilities.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies