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Canadian Drug Importation Bill Heads To DeSantis' Desk

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Daylina Miller/WUSF News
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida legislators have passed a bill that would pave the way for residents to buy cheaper prescription drugs imported from Canada.

The bill approved by the House and Senate on Monday was a priority of Governor Ron DeSantis. Ultimately, importation programs require approval from the federal government, but the bill passed Monday gives state officials authority to seek approval.

"What this legislation would authorize Governor DeSantis to do is to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to act on the authority it already has from the Medicare Modernization Act more than 15 years ago to set up that pathway to bring in drugs from Canada,” said Jeff Johnson, Director for AARP Florida.

"Since that time, states have not been successful - in most cases have not even tried - to ask the FDA to go through with that sort of certification,” Johnson said.

The bill would authorize three programs --- the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program in the state Agency for Health Care Administration; the International Prescription Drug Importation Program in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation; and a pilot program run by the Florida Department of Health and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

While the Canadian and International drug importation programs would require federal approval, the pilot program would not, according to the bill.

Both programs would be prohibited from including importation of controlled substances; biological products; intravenously injected drugs; or drugs that are inhaled during surgery.

Some 73% of 50-plus voters, including two-thirds of Republicans, support the plan, a recent AARP survey showed.

“The drug companies say there's no way to safely import prescription drugs, but we’re not stupid,” Johnson said.  “They’re just not telling us the truth.

“It’s going to be hard to persuade ordinary Floridians that droves of people in Canada are beset by fake and contaminated drugs. A lot of Canadians live in Florida part-time during the colder months.  Those Canadians tell us that their medicines cost a lot less back home.  Some of them find the attacks on this proposal to be just laughable.”

Johnson warns Floridians that scammers could take advantage of residents by saying these drugs are now available when, realistically he said, it would be at least year before that’s possible.

About 80% of the active ingredients in prescriptions taken in the U.S. are manufactured elsewhere, according to the FDA.

The House voted 93-20 to pass the importation bill (HB 19), after the Senate approved it earlier in the day in a 27-13 vote. It heads to Governor Ron DeSantis' desk for approval where he's expected to sign it into law.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.