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Plan to import drugs from Canada OK’d by second House panel

“The President is supportive of this effort,” Gov. Ron DeSantis has said.

The House’s budget panel on Monday backed up Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ plan to begin importing more affordable prescription drugs from Canada.

The Appropriations Committee cleared a bill (HB 19) on a party-line vote to “establish a program for the importation of safe and effective prescription drugs from Canada that have the highest potential for cost savings to the state.”

The bill, sponsored by Ormond Beach Republican Tom Leek, followed public comments from DeSantis, who also said he had spoken to President Donald Trump about the idea; Trump was “enthused” about the idea, according to the Governor. The federal government would have to approve any drug importation program.

The United States spends $3.5 trillion on health care, or $10,739 per person, each year. One-tenth of that, approximately $333.4 billion, is spent on retail prescription drugs.

About 14 percent, or $46.7 billion, is paid out-of-pocket by consumers.

The committee rejected six amendments from Rep. Barbara Watson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, including one that would have exempted senior citizens, inmates and pregnant women from the program because “prescription drugs from outside of the United States” carry “an unknown danger and risk of death or harm.”

Representatives of American pharmaceutical concerns and others continue to oppose the plan, some raising the specter of counterfeit drugs. Canadian health care organizations worry the plan could exacerbate shortages of needed medicine there. And Democrats on the panel complained there were no price control provisions in Leek’s bill.

DeSantis announced his drug importation plan last month at The Villages, a massive Central Florida retirement community. DeSantis was joined by House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who has made lowering health care costs a top priority.

Within hours of DeSantis’ announcement, Leek filed the bill for the 2019 Legislative Session. It cleared the Health Quality Subcommittee on a 12-2 vote last week. It goes next to the Health & Human Services Committee.

A companion measure (SB 1452) has been filed, but Senate President Bill Galvano has said he’s concerned the state may be overstepping its bounds, questioning whether Florida has clear authority to regulate the movement of medicine from state to state or from other countries to Florida because of interstate commerce laws.

But DeSantis, in his State of the State message, said he wanted “Floridians to be able to purchase prescription drugs from Canada at lower prices.”

He added “there is an avenue under existing federal law to accomplish this; the President is supportive of this effort and has asked me to plow ahead, which will require navigating an institutionally hostile bureaucracy.

“This could save money for individuals, reduce costs for businesses and relieve pressure on our state budget,” DeSantis said, according to the prepared version of the speech. ” … One thing is clear: Floridians need relief from the rising costs of prescription drugs.”

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Background for this post provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

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