Vendors, Critics Show Interest In Canadian Drug Importation Plan

Aug 2, 2019

Florida’s initial effort to gauge interest in the operation of a Canadian drug importation program has drawn more letters of concern from critics than responses from those seeking to participate in the program.

The Agency for Health Care Administration issued a request for information from potential vendors in late May, after state lawmakers approved the drug-importation plan. During a month-long response period, two vendors --- Ernst & Young and Maximus --- responded to the agency’s request.

Another five responses, however, flagged concerns with the new law. It’s unclear how much the companies would charge the state to serve as the vendor of the Canadian prescription drug importation program, based on documents provided to The News Service of Florida. Five pages of cost-related information in Ernst & Young’s June 25 response were redacted.

Meanwhile, in its response, Maximus noted that “the cost to implement a program as described in our response can vary greatly depending on the state’s requirements,” and that the company would “prefer to discuss ... pricing directly with the state.”

The new prescription-drug law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in June, allows Florida to establish Canadian and international drug-importation programs. The law gave the Agency for Health Care Administration until Dec. 1 to hire a vendor to help identify drugs that should be imported and help make the connection with Canadian suppliers.

The law gives the agency until July 1, 2020 to submit what is known as a “waiver” request to the federal government to move ahead with the program.

President Donald Trump’s administration announced Wednesday that federal health officials are advancing a plan intended to make it easier for states like Florida to launch the drug-importation programs, fiercely opposed by pharmaceutical companies.

While the Florida health-care agency’s request for information drew interest from potential vendors, it also elicited responses from organizations that oppose the law, including the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA; Oncology Managers of Florida Inc.; the Partnership for Safe Medicines; the American Senior Alliance; and the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, or HDA.

HDA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Elizabeth Gallenagh wrote that her company is concerned that the program "will negatively impact the pharmaceutical supply chain and jeopardize patient safety.”

In addition to authorizing the state to move ahead with importing drugs from Canada for state-backed programs such as Medicaid and prison health care, Florida's new law also creates a separate international drug program that Florida residents could utilize.