Senate panel backs giving Florida access to Canadian drugs
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Floridians could gain access to cheaper prescription drugs from Canada if the federal government agrees under legislation approved Monday by a state Senate committee.
The Senate Health Policy Committee voted 8-2 Monday for one of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top priorities in the 60-day legislative session. A companion measure with several key differences is moving through House committees that would eventually need to be reconciled with the Senate version.
The Senate bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Aaron Bean of Jacksonville, said the Canadian drug import program if adopted would be submitted for approval to the federal Health and Human Services Department. If approved there in an estimated six months to a year, the plan would come back to Florida lawmakers for a final decision.
“The price of health care is a major concern. It’s a major concern of Floridians. They are not just making that up,” Bean said. ”″There’s a significant potential for savings.”
The U.S. has one of the costliest health care systems in the world at about $10,739 per person in 2017, according to a Senate staff analysis of the bill. As of 2015, the analysis found that U.S. spending on prescription drugs topped $1,000 per person annually and was 30 to 190 percent higher than nine other western countries.
Under the Senate bill, a vendor would be chosen to administer the Canadian drug import program in Florida. This vendor would develop a list of prescription drugs that could be imported at the highest cost savings and identify and contract with eligible Canadian suppliers. The imported drugs would have to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for safety, effectiveness, misbranding, and adulteration.
Controlled substances, drugs that are injected, and certain biological products are among those that would not be permitted.
Opponents say the measure could lead to importation of risky counterfeit, contaminated, or ineffective drugs; create a drug “black market;” and prove costly to oversee and regulate. They also contend the drugs could contain harmful or even deadly substances that consumers would not be aware of.
Bean said the bill envisions regular state inspections of batches of drugs in addition to the regulatory and eligibility requirements.
“It allows Florida to have an option,” Bean said. ”“This will give us a chance to get on the path of achieving savings for our constituents.”
Vermont last year became the first state in the nation to enact a prescription-drug importation law, but it has not yet been submitted for approval to the federal health agency.
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