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Column: Trump taps Kodak (yes, that Kodak) to bring stability to the drug market

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

More than a few people likely were left scratching their heads when President Trump announced this week that the federal government will loan Eastman Kodak $765 million in taxpayer money to develop ingredients for generic drugs.

Kodak? The camera company? The producer of Kodachrome film, which Paul Simon adored for making you think all the world's a sunny day?

Yes, that Kodak, the same 20th-century photography giant that failed to transition to a 21st-century era of digital cameras (even though it invented the darned things in 1975). The same Kodak that filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

"It was one of the great brands in the world," Trump acknowledged during a press conference to announce the move. "Then people went digital, and Kodak didn't follow."

Even so, he said Kodak now will use "advanced manufacturing techniques" to produce drug ingredients "in a manner that is both cost-competitive and environmentally safe."

The company eventually will produce as much as a quarter of all active ingredients needed for generic drugs taken by Americans, Trump said.

 

"We'll be competitive with almost all countries, and soon with all countries," he declared.

This is one of those rare examples where I find myself in agreement with the president, at least conceptually.

The issue he's trying to address is a serious one. The vast majority of active ingredients for prescription drugs come from China and India.

Acetaminophen, for example, is America's most widely used drug ingredient, found not just in namesake pills but also as a component of hundreds of cold, flu and allergy remedies. Nearly all of the world's supply of it comes from China and India, with China accounting for roughly two-thirds of the total.

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