Florida moves closer to Canadian drug importation

A plan by Florida governor Ron DeSantis to allow drugs to be imported into the state from Canada in order to cut spending on medicines has been approved by a Senate committee.

The proposal (SB 1528) cleared the Florida Senate’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday, drawing swift criticism from the pharma industry which claims it will open the door to medicine counterfeiters.

Nevertheless, US patients are increasingly turning to Canadian pharmacies and suppliers for medication, and this trades FDA protections for financial relief, according to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), which acknowledges that imported drugs can provide savings of up to 70 per cent. In most cases, importing drugs for personal use remains illegal.

The FDA has also expressed concern about the transparency and legitimacy of some Canadian sources. For instance, it recently issued a warning letter to CanaRx, saying the company (which is not an online pharmacy) is putting Americans at risk by distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs to US consumers.

In a press release highlighting the warning letter, ex-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that “when a consumer goes online to buy medicines purportedly from Canada, they may get a medicine sourced from elsewhere that could be counterfeit, expired or misbranded.”

The House is due to consider its version of the bill (HB 19) today, and even if adopted would have to be approved by the federal government.

Several other states have proposed their own wholesale drug import programmes, although there does not seem to be much overt support from the Trump administration.  Importation didn’t feature at all in the President’s blueprint for reducing medicine process published last year.

That focused more on cracking down on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that don’t pass rebates onto consumers and pegging US prices for drugs covered by Medicare Part B - which covers medicines given in doctor's offices or outpatient clinics - into line with a reference group of other industrialised countries.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did however establish a working group to examine how drug importation might help address price increases and supply disruptions.

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