Importing prescription drugs from Canada could get green light in Florida
Florida state lawmakers believe they have a solution for skyrocketing prescription drug bills: importing lower-cost medications from Canada.
Republican lawmakers, led by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, recently voted to pass a proposal to import cheaper, price-controlled drugs from Canada as a way to help its growing population of seniors who can’t afford medications.
The plan, which was a key plank of DeSantis’ legislative agenda, still needs to be approved by the federal Health and Human Services Department before it can be implemented. U.S. President Donald Trump, who promised that the Republicans would be “the party of great health care,” supports the proposal.
According to a legislative staff analysis, U.S. consumers pay as much as 190 per cent more for prescription drugs than other Western countries. Underscoring the issue, last week, a self-described “caravan of Americans” with Type 1 diabetes travelled to Canada to get dramatically cheaper, life-saving insulin.
Matt Gaetz, a Republican lawmaker in the state, said that the Florida plan “could be a model for the rest of the country.”
But Canadian officials say they haven’t been asked about the legislation.
“We will not speculate on U.S. policies,” said Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor in a statement to CTV News.
Opponents of the plan have warned that importing drugs from Canada could be dangerous, increasing the risk of counterfeit or ineffective substances flooding the market. They have also expressed concerns about whether Canadian drug makers can even meet the demands of a large U.S. market.
These concerns are not new. In 2017, Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar put forward an amendment to a budget resolution that they said would lower prescription drug costs by allowing American pharmacists to import cheaper drugs from Canada.
But it failed to pass. Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who is running for president along with Sanders and Klobuchar, opposed the amendment because he said that he didn’t believe prescription drugs from Canada would “meet American safety standards.”
Republicans, though, are under growing pressure to deliver major health care reforms ahead of next year’s 2020 presidential election, and they appear to be less worried about the safety concerns that have long prevented similar measures from passing.
“Drugs from Canada weren’t whipped up in somebody’s bathtub,” Gaetz said.
Even with no commitment from Ottawa, Florida state lawmakers are optimistic that cheaper medications from Canada could be made available some time in 2020 -- just as voters head to the polls.
With files from The Associated Press