This week, Florida legislators heard that plans are moving forward to import more affordable prescription drugs from Canada, and that both the state government and patients will benefit. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently reviewing a proposal from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow drugs to be imported in order to reduce costs.
Florida's Senate Health Policy Chair Gayle Harrell said that the state government will save $150 million per year by importing cheaper Canadian drugs. He hopes that approval from the FDA will come soon, and the Trump administration is supporting the measure. Low income people who are on Florida's Medicaid will be among the first to see lower costs. But many other patients and programs will save money too; county health departments, mental health treatment centers, developmental disability centers, and Florida's Department of Corrections will all benefit from more affordable drugs.
The proposed rule would allow Florida and other states to submit plans to import medicines from Canada. There will be certain limitations-only factories that also make active pharmaceutical ingredients for FDA approved drugs could send them, and certain drugs like expensive biologics will be excluded from importation. Still, consumers would benefit a lot from reduced drug prices. On average Canadian drug prices are 40% lower than U.S. drug costs.
Florida's plan would import 150 drugs from Canada, and cheaper treatments for HIV/AIDS are expected to offer the most savings. The Canadian government is worried that if America imports too many drugs, they will be left without an adequate supply. These are legitimate concerns, but in the meantime American consumers are suffering because they can't afford their medicines. And the Trump administration, in one of its few positive steps to bring down drug costs, seems determined to enact the reform. Florida has been a leader on this issue partly because of its large population of seniors, who often take more prescription drugs than other Americans and have less income with which to pay exorbitant costs.
Other states will hopefully soon follow suit. This year Colorado, Maine, and Vermont also passed laws establishing programs to import cheaper drugs for Canada. OMB and FDA should move swiftly to approve these initiatives and allow importation as soon possible.