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Trump's Ignorance of Puerto Rico's Drug Industry Could Harm Us All

Puerto Rico's Drug Industry

25 percent of the U.S.' pharmaceutical drugs are manufatured in Puerto Rico — damage from Hurricane Maria could impact it greatly.  

Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are continuing to try and handle the immense loss suffered from infrastructure damage. But perhaps one industry that is being hit the most is drug manufacturing. 

According to Marketplace, over 25 percent of all pharmaceutical drugs exported from the United States are made in Puerto Rico. Following the hurricane, drug makers are tirelessly trying to figure out how to prevent shortages in the over 50 plants and distribution centers they operate. 

As Pedro Julio Serrano, who runs Paratod@s,  San Juan’s largest LGBT and HIV community center, told Plus last month, despite there being significant damage, his organization continues to run a shelter for those needing housing. (You can donate by clicking HERE). 

Manufacturers receive tax breaks, which is why Puerto Rico has been a hub for drug manufacturers since the 1970s. But in 2006, they were phased out, according to analyst David Hitchcock, who told Marketplace: “Since then, the pharmaceutical plants have decreased in number, pharmaceutical companies are not adding new plants, and as plants get taken offline, they have not been replaced, and that's been part of Puerto Rico's economic problem.” 

National nonprofit, Healthcare Ready, has been trying to help with disaster relief, and as its runner Nicolette Louissaint said, “Hurricane season comes every year. Companies are very aware of the particular hazards that they have to contend with, and they have business continuity plans in place.”

Drug manufacturers don’t just supply to the U.S. They also are a major distribution point to the rest of the Caribbean. 

The bottom line is that while focus has been on rebuilding the damage and drastic loss to the island itself, we must also pay close attention to the needs of manufacturing centers. The Trump administration's repeated threats of pulling back aid to the island territory, could risk throwing a wrench in the drug supply machine on the mainland. 

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