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Florida House Moves Closer To Approving A Canadian Drug Importation Program

Rich Pedroncelli
AP Photo

Governor Ron DeSantis has been adamant about wanting to import medications, to bring down prescription costs. But others aren’t on the same page.

“I want Floridians to be able to purchase prescription drugs from Canada at lower prices.  There is an avenue under existing federal law to accomplish this; the President is supportive of this effort and has asked me to plow ahead, which will require navigating an institutionally hostile bureaucracy. This could save money for individuals, reduce costs for businesses and relieve pressure on our state budget," said DeSantis.

That’s Governor Ron DeSantis addressing the high prescription cost in Florida. According to a state analysis Americans spend $47 billion on prescription drugs a year.

“The simple fact is that American citizens pay two and even three times higher prices for the exact same medications than the citizens of Canada," said Herpscher

Bill Herpscher Owns the Canadian Medstore, a company whose goal is solely to help citizens order medication from Canada, and other countries.

"The one thing that these people have in common is that they struggle every day to afford their life saving medication, and they’ve discovered that they can buy the exact same medication at half the price from a licensed Canadian pharmacy," said Herpscher

To reduce those costs lawmakers have been doing just what DeSantis requested trying to create a program that allows for the importation of FDA-approved prescription drugs from other countries, with Canada at the forefront.

Daytona Beach Republican house member Tom Leek is sponsoring the bill to create the International Drug Importation Program and the Canadian Drug Importation Program.

"The Canadian Drug Importation Program allows state funded entities to import safe and effective prescription drugs from Canada. It significantly lowers costs and it requires federal approval," said Leek

No state has received federal approval to do so since 2003, when the Federal Government authorized wholesalers to import only if approved first. But Leek says he wants to try.

"I think in this instance we’ve got to try. What we know is that the system that we have doesn’t work for many people. And this is an opportunity for us to provide a good alternative avenue for lower costs to benefit consumers," said Leek.

John Clark, Chief Security Officer for Pfizer – one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies – argues that drugs coming from outside of the country may be counterfeits and could be deadly to Floridians.

“Online pharmacies are the Achilles heel of the US system; our closed supply chain is very very secure in the united states. But US citizens are ordering online and getting tons of counterfeits. And I would say tens of thousands of US citizens are dying every day because of counterfeits. We just don’t know about it because they’re dying of diseases that people suspect as natural, when they’re taking counterfeit medicines not treating their diseases," said Clark.

But Palm Bay Republican Representative Randy Fine says most drugs aren’t currently manufactured in America.

“The notion that we have this sort of secure and protected and impenetrable system and if we allow the rest of the world to get involved, and if we import their drugs people are going to die. The system that we have right now is not entirely safe. And that’s been very instructive to me in thinking about that. Apparently about 1 in every 10 drugs that we take today is made in China,” said Fine.

The proposal is making its way through the House, but after multiple amendments were voted down that would add more testing and safety measures. Orlando Democratic Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith says changes must be made before he is in full support.

“We have to address these issues we cannot just put a blindfold over our eyes, and just vote down all these amendments and vote yes on the underlying amendment without some assurances that these issues are going to be addressed,” said Guillermo Smith.

But Republicans are in the majority and may not need Democrats’ support. What the House does need is the Senate approval. And a similar bill in that chamber has not been scheduled for a committee hearing.

I’m Blaise Gainey

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.