With the increased frustration regarding inflated prescription drug prices, states like Florida are pushing for legislative programs that would permit the United States to import drugs from Canada. If this bill were to pass, it would allow many of the identical prescription drugs consumed by Americans to be purchased for a third of the price. However, this is not the first time a bill of this nature has been attempted.
In Utah, a similar bill that would have allowed the state to import prescription drugs from Canada was eventually turned down after lawmakers spent two-years developing the legislation. However, representatives in the state of Utah have not given up and claim that they will try a variation of the bill again next year. Leading the original legislation, as well as the upcoming bill is Republican Representative Norman Thurston.
However, the state of Florida is the next in the line to attempt to pass a similar version of this bill, which would permit the importation of prescription drugs for both Medicaid and prisoners. If passed, an additional program of the legislation would also allow the importation of these products for residents of the state.
So far, the proposed bill and both of its programs have been received well, passing through the House appropriations in early March of 2019. Now the bill will be submitted to the health and human services committee to await further approval.
The Governor of Florida, Republican Ron DeSantis, has been in full support of this bill, however, there are many that expect the bill to face difficulty in the Senate. This is in part due to the bill’s allowance of Florida state residents to take part in the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, which has been openly opposed by the Senate president.
The bill may also face additional difficulties from the FDA, which will need to be in support of the legislation in order to certify the safety of the imported prescription drugs entering from Canada. While many of the drugs available in Canada are essentially identical to the drugs offered in the United States, a safety certification program will need to be set in place for the protection of the individuals using the drugs. However, the FDA has not exactly expressed support on behalf of this idea, recently cracking down on CanaRx, a leading Canadian broker, for sending medication to the United States through its prescription fulfillment and direct shipping operations.
Former FDA associate commissioner, Peter Pitts, also offered comment on the subject, stating, “It’s a non-starter because safety and quality can’t be assured and won’t save money”. He added, “Most drugs sold are generics, which are cheaper in the U.S. We’re entering into a political silly season where sounds bites come up, but we need to look at hard facts.”. However, Pitts is currently the President and Co-Founder of the Center for Medicine in The Public Interest, which receives massive funding from the pharmaceutical industry.
Should the bill pass, the pharmaceutical industry may experience massive drops in revenue. Eventually, other states will be likely to follow suit, as many are already in the process of preparing similar legislation. If the pharmaceutical industry does not make changes to its current pricing and programs, states will only continue to push for the permittance of prescription drug importations from Canada.
While it’s not certain that the Florida bill will pass and its programs will come to fruition, it is evident that states are beginning to fight back against soaring drug prices and the pharmaceutical companies that create them. Whether through the adaptation of United States pharmaceutical companies or the Senate’s willingness to allow drug imports from Canada, it appears as though a solution for high drug prices may be on the horizon.
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