Gov. Ron DeSantis called Friday on the Biden administration to approve the state’s plan to import prescription drugs from Canada.
DeSantis introduced an importation program in February 2019 bringing Floridians closer to purchasing federally approved drugs from Canada. Former President Donald Trump cleared a federal hurdle for importation programs last year, but the state’s plan still awaits the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s green light.
Outpatient prescription drug prices nationwide increased from $177 billion to $500 billion between 2003 and 2020. The state estimates its plan could save Floridians between $80 million and $150 million.
“We want the Biden administration to approve this,” DeSantis said, speaking at a Lakeland drug warehouse. “We think if they act immediately, we’ll be able to provide safe and effective drugs to drive down prescription costs here in Florida, and the taxpayer will be able to realize a lot of savings.”
The Governor said Florida has been waiting six months for the federal government to approve his importation plan. He said if they didn’t deny the plan to expect regulators to approve it.
“But we want to get that final approval, because once we do, then all this stuff goes in motion and we’re able to start realizing some savings,” DeSantis said.
Florida’s done its homework and passed the tests, he added, but is just waiting for the final approval.
In July, Trump signed a series of executive orders to lower drug prices, including allowing states to implement drug importation plans. Trump invited DeSantis to Washington for the event, where he said the Governor has been at the forefront of prescription importation plans.
In September, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a final rule to implement the Safe Importation Action Plan.
Florida is one of a handful of states to have submitted plans.
Rep. Tom Leek, the Ormond Beach Republican who sponsored the 2019 bill creating the state’s importation program, recalled the fight to get the bill passed and the series of lobbyists in opposition the Legislature faced. DeSantis remembered the unavoidable attack ads on TV.
“I’m watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my daughter, and I see, oh, Gov. DeSantis and his minions want to bring in these dangerous drugs from Djibouti or whatever. It was nonsense,” he said.
Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller said her agency has been working with LifeScience Logistics, the site of the press conference, to streamline the importation process and prepare businesses for when it kicks off.
“This is a program that can and should serve as an example for the other states who are either contemplating or planning to implement similar programs,” she said.
However, she noted Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris was the one to develop the plan when she was serving in AHCA.
“High prescription drug costs are crippling to our healthcare delivery system,” Harris said. “As a state agency that operates mental health treatment facilities, every opportunity for savings in healthcare costs me more dollars that can be diverted to enhance behavioral health treatment services for the individuals who rely on us most.”
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation helped inspect Life Science Logistics to clear it to partner with a Canadian company. Its warehouse in Lakeland is empty now, but DeSantis hopes it will be full in a few months.