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Federal Agencies Drafting New Proposal For Importing Prescription Drugs

Woman is typing numbers into a cash register. A woman in front of her has her wallet out to give the cashier money.
Craig Line
AP Photo

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has begun writing rules for two plans aimed at lowering drug costs for consumers. One would allow states to develop programs to import Canadian drugs. The other guides international manufacturers on how to bring their drugs into the U.S.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced his agency will begin hearing input on proposals to allow prescription drugs from abroad into the U.S.

“Today, for the first time in history, HHS and FDA are open for business on importation,” Azar says.

Until recently, the HHS has opposed the idea of importing drugs. Azar points to pressure from President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as being a key factor in causing him to rethink his stance on the issue.

“The increase in size. The vertical and horizontal integration and the globalization of these large pharmacy chains as well as the very large wholesale distributers with operations in Canada and elsewhere—we believe this creates this opportunity for a business to business connectivity between the Canadian and the American systems,” Azar says.

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew notes the federal proposal is based on Florida’s blueprint.

“What is clear from the rule is that the United States Department of Health and Human Services used Florida’s concept paper in drafting this rule,” Mayhew says.

She's referring to a paper her agency submitted to Health and Human Services. It says Americans spend more on prescription drugs compared to Canada. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been a vocal advocate for the program, as has President Donald Trump.

However, despite the new push to allow importation, Azar could not provide a timeline on when the program will start.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.