Ron DeSantis, Jose Oliva praise Donald Trump administration drug importation moves
Image by Ajale from Pixabay.

Federal plan lays groundwork for allowing medication from Canada.

Florida leaders heralded a decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to consider the importation of prescription drugs.

“The administration recognizes that safety and quality can and must be ensured for this market to thrive and reduce costs,” said Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday unrolled a Safe Importation Action Plan (PDF). The guidelines lay a foundation for allowing certain medications into the nation from international suppliers.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he directed Azar to create a plan. Trump said this will result in “Lowering drug prices for many Americans — including our great seniors!”

“President Trump has been clear: for too long American patients have been paying exorbitantly high prices for prescription drugs that are made available to other countries at lower prices,” Azar said.

“When we released the President’s drug pricing blueprint (PDF) for putting American patients first, we said we are open to all potential solutions to combat high drug prices that protect patient safety, are effective at delivering lower prices, and respect choice, innovation and access.”

A number of Florida leaders welcomed the news. Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed for drug importation to Florida to reduce health care costs here.

The Florida Legislature this session passed legislation to potentially establish a program in the state. The new Florida law allows for an intergovernmental program headed by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Pills from Health Canada would be brought in through the program.

Oliva has made greater free-market pressures within Florida’s health care a hallmark issue of his leadership tenure. He said competition will ensure better pricing across the board for patients.

“In Florida, we recognized this reality, took on entrenched interests, and today stand as the tip of the consumer spear, ready to infuse real international competition into the marketplace,” Oliva said.

“Gov. DeSantis, President [Bill] Galvano, and bipartisan leadership in both chambers put patients, especially seniors, first and showed what can be accomplished when we are unified in a common purpose. We thank the President and his administration for today’s news and stand ready to make prescription drugs more cost-effective for all Americans.”

The move has its critics, however.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, a Miami Democrat and HHS Secretary under President Bill Clinton, dismissed Florida’s efforts as “the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“No HHS Secretary has ever approved the importation of drugs because of safety,” Shalala said earlier this year.

Nevertheless, DeSantis praised the HHS announcement Wednesday with his own social media statement.

“Thank you President @realDonaldTrump for supporting my efforts to lower prescription drug costs for Floridians,” he wrote. “You are helping Florida lead the way to make safe and affordable prescription drugs a reality.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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