- - Wednesday, September 9, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has made it a priority to onshore the manufacturing of key pharmaceutical ingredients, securing America’s drug supply chain and creating jobs at home.

To that end, the Trump administration recently signaled interest in issuing a loan to Eastman Kodak to allow for the launch of Kodak Pharmaceuticals, which would produce critical pharmaceutical components in the United States.  

The loan has since been paused after Kodak officials were accused of alleged wrongdoings regarding stock options granted to them before the loan announcement. Kodak began an internal investigation into these acts and is waiting for the results, but the underlying need for an American company to bring pharmaceutical production home remains.

COVID-19 has revealed how dependent Americans are on China for their pharmaceutical and medical supply imports. It is time American drugs were produced in America.

Senior Trade Adviser Peter Navarro recently said, “We have already witnessed over 80 countries impose some form of export restrictions on medicines or medical supplies, proving that no matter how strong our friendships or alliances may be, they mean nothing in a pandemic.”

Onshoring is the process “of transferring a business operation that was moved overseas back to the country from which it was originally relocated.”

Onshoring American pharmaceuticals will stimulate the economy, bring thousands of new jobs, protect the American medical supply chain and ensure increased safety.

Onshoring is especially important for combatting COVID-19 and potential future pandemics that could infect Americans.

To combat COVID-19, President Trump used a wartime method of action, the Defense Production Act (DPA), to allocate more funding and resources to companies in order to increase production of certain supplies, including ventilators, face masks, pharmaceuticals and more.

Mr. Navarro and his team decided the American-based company Kodak was best equipped to manufacture key starting materials and active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Kodak is set to receive a $765 million loan from the Development Finance Corp. (DFC), as authorized by the DPA. Unfortunately, the DFC has paused the review of the Kodak loan, which only further hurts American patients currently suffering from COVID-19 and those who potentially could suffer from this disease. The DFC needs to bring its review to completion and let Kodak get back to work. The stakes are too high.

Given an expanded scope in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DFC provides loans to companies that add value in the public health space but are unable to raise money under reasonable terms in private markets. Kodak needs this loan guarantee to save American lives.

Kodak is not a big pharmaceutical company like Teva, Sanofi and others that could go into the private market for a $1 billion loan and do this without government help, but Big Pharma companies like Teva and others benefit from cheap, foreign labor, so they won’t bring their business to the U.S.

According to Mr. Navarro, “this will position Kodak as one of the most strategically critical powerhouses in our domestic supply chain. … The Kodak project is a big win for the Defense Production Act, a big win for New York and the nation — and a huge step forward toward US pharmaceutical independence.” 

By 2021, Big Pharma profits for prescription drugs are expected to reach $610 billion. But Big Pharma cannot possibly help move manufacturing here? Kodak is one of the only companies willing to do the work to bring this money and safer drugs to Americans.

According to one study, for every $1 spent on “basic research,” Big Pharma spends $19 on promotions and advertising.

Recent news stories have depicted Kodak in an unflattering light, but we must remember why the Trump administration selected Kodak for this mission.

President Trump touted, “I’m proud to announce one of the most important deals in the history of U.S. pharmaceutical industries. My administration has reached a historic agreement with a great American company … I want to congratulate the people in Kodak. They’ve been working very hard. Members of my administration are present in Rochester [New York] right now … and they’re trying to finalize this groundbreaking deal … It’s a big deal. It’s going to be a great deal and a great deal for New York and a great deal for Kodak … it’s a breakthrough in bringing pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the United States.”

• Matt Mackowiak is president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.

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