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Election gift for Florida? Trump poised to approve drug imports from Canada

By Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News on

Published in News & Features

Over the objections of drugmakers, the Trump administration is expected within weeks to finalize its plan that would allow states to import some prescription medicines from Canada.

Six states - Colorado, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Vermont - have passed laws allowing them to seek federal approval to buy drugs from Canada to give their residents access to lower-cost medicines.

But industry observers say the drug importation proposal under review by the administration is squarely aimed at Florida - the most populous swing state in the November election. Trump's support of the idea initially came at the urging of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Republican ally.

The DeSantis administration is so confident Trump will move ahead with allowing drug importation that it put out a request June 30 for private companies to bid on a three-year, $30 million contract to run the program. It hopes to award the contract in December.

Industry experts say Florida is likely to be the first state to win federal approval for a drug importation plan - something that could occur before the November election.

"Approving Florida would feel like the politically astute thing to do," said Mara Baer, a Colorado-based health consultant who has worked with Florida on its importation proposal.

 

Ben England, CEO of FDAImports, a consulting firm in Glen Burnie, Maryland, said the OMB typically has 60 days to review final rules, although he expects this one could be completed before Nov. 3 and predicted there's a small chance it could get finalized and Florida's request approved by then. "It's an election year, so I do see the current administration trying to use this as a talking point to say 'Look what we've accomplished,'" he said.

Florida also makes sense because of the large number of retirees, who face high costs for medicines despite Medicare drug coverage.

The DeSantis administration did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump boasted about his importation plan during an October speech in The Villages, a large retirement community about 60 miles northwest of Orlando. "We will soon allow the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs from other countries, including the country of Canada, where, believe it or not, they pay much less money for the exact same drug," Trump said, with DeSantis in attendance. "Stand up, Ron. Boy, he wants this so badly."

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