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WSJ, former FDA director slam drug import plan

The plan “is impractical, unsafe and unlikely to reduce prices at the pharmacy.”

A plan that would allow Canadian drugs into Florida pharmacies is barreling through the Legislature this year, and it’s getting some nationwide attention.

Over the weekend, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who left office April 5, blasted the drug importation plan, saying the drugs that would flow into the Sunshine State may not be from Canada at all.

Gottlieb added that while there are “barriers to price competition in the drug market,” drop shipping drugs from Canada to Florida wasn’t the best solution.

“There are enduring solutions that could open up more aspects of the drug market to true price competition, and dismantle policy barriers that shield incumbents. No patient should be denied a drug they need because of cost. There are lots of safe ways to fix market failures,” he said.

Gottlieb’s assertion echoes the stance held by many groups that have raised their eyebrows at the importation plan, including the Partnership for Safe Medicines, which recently launched an ad campaign warning Floridians that imports could be sourced from seedy factories and could even lack the active ingredients of their real-deal counterparts.

Proponents say imports would combat rising prescription drug prices, though another opponent of the measure, Americans for Tax Reform, says the U.S. market is the only one left where drug companies can make enough profit to recoup their research and development costs.

AFT said the plan was a U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders-style “socialist policy.”

That comparison isn’t one that many of HB 19 and SB 1528’s backers would take kindly to, among them Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has made it one of his top priorities during his first session on the job.

House Republicans also gave the proposal airtime in a hype reel of their health care proposals released last week.

In a Monday Op-Ed, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board combined both camp’s arguments in a two-pronged thrashing, labeling imports as “a dangerous moment for the world’s most productive and dynamic market for medicine.”

“One feature of the political moment is that ideas that first appeared on the left (tariffs) are gaining support on the populist right,” the column says. “The latest example is a GOP plan in Florida to import prescription drugs from Canada, which is impractical, unsafe and unlikely to reduce prices at the pharmacy.”

Further down: “The argument that drug importation threatens the integrity of the drug supply is often dismissed because pharmaceutical lobbyists make it. But keeping the drug supply free from contaminated or counterfeit products is not easy, and the World Health Organization has warned that 1 in 10 medical products in the developing world are phony. It isn’t clear who is liable if counterfeits are found in Florida, but you can bet it won’t be the politicians.”

The lone positive of the plan, according to WSJ, is that it wouldn’t allow imports of controlled substances.

HB 19 was greenlit by the full House Thursday with a 93-22 vote. The Senate companion is scheduled to go before the Appropriations Committee, its final stop, when the panel meets at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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