Plan to import Canadian drugs to the US challenged by pharmaceutical lobby in Florida

pharmafile | November 26, 2020 | News story | Business Services  

The proposed plan to import cheaper Canadian drugs to Florida is being challenged by the US pharmaceutical lobby in court. 

The plan was proposed under rules finalised by Alex Azar and the Department of Health and Human Services in July, and is now being challenged by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Partnership for Safe Medicines and the Council for Affordable Health Coverage. 

Their lawsuit argues that there is not enough evidence to support the assurances that drug importation programmes are safe or will produce significant savings for consumers. 

James Stansel, PhRMA Executive Vice President and General Counsel, said in a statement: “It is particularly disturbing that the administration is punting the responsibility for demonstrating safety and cost savings to state governments despite the clear requirement under federal law that the secretary of HHS must certify that imported drugs both pose no additional risk to public safety and will lead to significant savings for the American consumer.”

The move for cheaper Canadian drugs has been backed by local politicians and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, despite the pharmaceutical lobby contributing nearly $19 million to state elections in 2018, one-third of the $56 million it spent on congressional campaigns. State lawmakers adopted House Bill 23 this year, which created an intergovernmental structure administered by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to purchase pharmaceuticals from Health Canada and earmarked $20.4 million in this year’s budget to hire a contractor to get the programme off the ground.

On the programme, DeSantis said: “For far too long Floridians have been paying exorbitant prices for prescription drugs. My administration will continue to work collaboratively in an effort to bring affordable prescription drugs to all Floridians.” 

AHCA Acting Secretary Shevaun Harris also commented and said: “I know that this crucial step Florida is taking toward effective change will be a catalyst for other states around the nation to follow. We will continue to work hard to bring down these prices that have burdened too many Floridians.”

The US government is expected to issue rules for the first state-backed imports from countries other than Canada on 30 November. 

Conor Kavanagh

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