We aren’t even 100 days into Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, and already he has proposed a revolutionary solution to Florida’s high drug prices: import drugs from Canada.
Our Drew Wilson echoed a sentiment expressed in a recent Senate Committee on Health Policy hearing when he pointed out that Canadian imports may be a solution down the road, but there are so many obstacles toward that goal that we can’t afford to put all our eggs in that one basket.
Arguments for and against the plan range from the quality of Canadian drugs to the quantity that importation would be able to provide. Importation targets high drug prices by changing the source, rather than changing the pricing structure.
Sen. Debbie Mayfield said it best: “If it’s the same ingredients of what the drugs are, it would seem to me that maybe we should dig into why our drugs are higher and solve our problem versus bringing in from outside.”
She pointed out that Florida currently has a three-layered system with the doctor, the pharmacy — and in between them, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).
Mayfield has a point: We should be examining the root cause of high drug prices. She also gave us a good place to start: PBMs.
PBMs are middlemen who wheel and deal drug prices, taking home a profit with every negotiation — and their profits translate into higher drug prices for everyone.
Proposing drug importation as a be-all, end-all solution looks at the problem from the outside in, when instead we should be examining the problem from within. Importation is the policy equivalent of routing around a pothole rather than actually fixing the road.
The Legislature has tried to address the PBMs in the past with some success, but more action is needed.
With the Legislative Session halfway over, the door is shutting on more reforms this year. If lawmakers continue to kick the can down the road, Floridians will lose out on their most realistic chance at drug savings for another year.
With the current pricing model, we’re just taking potential savings and handing them to benefit managers. Whether we get drugs from Canada or here at home, the pricing model that so richly rewards PBMs leaves Florida health consumers with empty pockets.