Florida lawmakers pass bill for Canadian drug importation

Floridians could eventually gain access to cheaper Canadian prescription drugs under a measure the state Legislature sent Monday to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who made it one of his top priorities.

With minimal debate, the GOP-led House voted 93-20 and the Senate 27-13 in favor of the bill to create a prescription drug importation program that would have to be approved by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department before it could be implemented. That could take months or longer, but House Speaker Jose Oliva said he was confident it would pass federal muster.

"The conversations with President (Donald) Trump have been very good. He understands the importance of it and the kind of pressures the citizens are under," Oliva said after the bill passed, adding that its aim is to make sure "everyone can afford a discount in those prices."

Sponsors say the measure would give Floridians an opportunity to pay less for vital prescription drugs. U.S. consumers pay some of the highest prescription drug prices in the world, as much as 30% to 190% more than other Western countries, according to a legislative staff analysis.

Supporters say imported drugs would have to meet strict Federal Food and Drug Administration standards and that 80 percent of drug ingredients used in the U.S. are foreign-made now.

Opponents warn of risky counterfeit, contaminated, or ineffective drugs and that the program could prove costly to oversee and regulate. A number of medical groups and the pharmaceutical industry are among the leading opponents. There are also questions about whether Canada would permit its lower-cost drugs to be sold in the U.S. and how much a new regulatory framework for foreign drugs might cost Florida taxpayers.

Vermont last year became the first state in the nation to enact a prescription-drug importation law, but it has not yet submitted an application to the federal health agency.


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