Concerns raised over DeSantis drug importation plan

Two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a plan to begin importing drugs from Canada, Senate President Bill Galvano on Friday questioned part of the proposal.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, told reporters he is on board with portions of the governor’s plan that involve the possibility of buying drugs from Canada for Medicaid and prison health care.

But Galvano said he is concerned about a proposal that would allow residents to access imported drugs. Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, filed a drug importation bill (HB 19) Wednesday after DeSantis made his announcement.

An attorney, Galvano said he is worried about the proposed regulatory structure of the so-called “International Prescription Drug Importation Program.”   

“Once you are moving from state to state, or from other countries to our state, that is interstate commerce, Galvano said. “That is the province of the U.S. Congress.”

Under the proposal, pharmacies and wholesale drug distributors located outside the United States could export drugs to pharmacists, pharmacies and wholesale drug distributors who would be registered with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The importing pharmacists would be precluded from selling or dispensing prescription drugs imported under the program to anyone who isn’t a state resident.

Some drugs could not be imported including anything that is intravenously injected or inhaled during surgery, controlled substances and biological products.

Appearing in The Villages this week, DeSantis said it was time to take on the rising costs of health care and that gaining access to FDA-approved drugs from Canada was a way to do that.

DeSantis said he was taking advantage of a 2003 federal law that allows for the importation of drugs and that he will work with President Donald Trump to create the program.

DeSantis said he “spoke personally” to Trump about the idea and that the president was “enthusiastic.”

While Galvano expressed worries about the proposal for individual access to the pharmaceuticals, he indicated support for changes to how the state can access lower-priced drugs.

A provision in the House bill would require the state Agency for Health Care Administration to contract with a vendor to develop a list of importable drugs that have the highest potential for cost savings.

The vendor would be charged with finding Canadian suppliers that would export prescription drugs identified on the list. Those authorized to import the drugs would include the Department of Corrections; wholesalers and pharmacists under contract with the Department of Health’s central pharmacy; and pharmacists or wholesalers under contract with developmental disabilities facilities.

The bill would direct the Agency for Health Care Administration to submit a request to the federal government for the program by July 1, 2020. The state would be required to implement the plan six months after approval.

Galvano noted that DeSantis said he received a commitment from Trump to move forward through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which could open the possibility of purchases from Canada for state programs.

“I think it’s worthy to be prepared if that occurs,” Galvano said, adding, “and if we can reduce prices after the people who are the vendors have been properly vetted, that’s a good thing.”