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Saved by the bell: Canadian pill bill clears first Senate panel

Public comment was truncated, however, frustrating some on hand.

A contentious bill allowing imports of less expensive Canadian pharmaceuticals cleared its first Senate committee Monday, with a vote happening just before adjournment.

The measure (SB 1528), sponsored by Jacksonville Republican Aaron Bean, would allow the Agency for Health Care Administration to run a program devoted to importing pills from north of the border.

However, medicine brought in outside of this program would be considered black market. The Senate Health Policy Committee still approved the bill on an 8-2 vote.

Bean noted constituent frustration with the price of health care, citing a Commonwealth Fund study saying Americans pay more than nearly anyone for drugs.

“We’re ready to go forward with a bold idea,” Bean said, noting that Gov. Ron DeSantis is in support. “If there are two things we know about Canadians, they love curling, and they love saving money at the pharmacy.”

Bean introduced a strike-all amendment that he said would allow a “vendor to quarterback the program.” He added that the program will bring both safety and cost reduction.

Health Canada is the equivalent of the FDA in our country,” Bean said in an attempt to reassure the committee.

They will even, Bean said, test the product before export. Extra testing, he added, will be applied to drugs from a third country that Canada then ships to the United States.

“We could stop on a dime. And if you had a dime, you could buy some of these drugs in Canada,” Bean quipped, in full raconteur mode as the clock ran out on the meeting.

Bean contended that competition would compel domestic providers to reduce prices.

“They already envision in their law the possibility of exporting drugs,” Bean said regarding Canada. “We’re going to be threading the needle.”

“Give the DeSantis administration and the Agency for Health Care Administration a chance to thread the needle,” he said.

In what was a very truncated period of public comment involving people who traveled from across the country for the meeting, some contended that Canada had no interest in this process.

A former FDA Associate Commissioner was among those critics. He had one minute to speak before the vote, slated for the time certain of 3:25 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg floated a five-year sunset on the program to ensure legislative oversight but said he would hold that for another committee.

Bean’s bill will next be considered by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services and the full Appropriations Committee.

The House companion bill (HB 19) is one stop away from being voted on by the full body; it’s cleared two panels already.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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