Drug Importation in Florida: An Overview
In April 2019, the Florida State Legislature passed HB19, a bill which requires Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration to establish a Canadian Prescription Drug program and an International Prescription Drug Importation Program.
Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, Florida is required to submit a plan to HHS to import medicine from Canada that meets requirements set in that legislation.
Governor De Santis signed the bill on June 11, 2019. The state is developing a plan to submit a Canadian importation plan to the Federal Health and Human Services Agency. Florida state regulators are simultaneously developing an RFP to solicit a vendor to run the importation program as well as licenses for international export wholesalers and pharmacies. (June 26, 2019)
How should we evaluate this program?
The program hasn't started yet, or even been designed, so there's no way to measure whether it saved money or kept patients safe, both promises made at the time of passage. However, the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act contains requirements for safety requirements built into any such program. PSM staff followed the debate in Florida and recorded promises made about safety and savings by the sponsors of the legislation.
Official actions and statements
- April 29, 2019: Florida Legislature Passes HB19
- May 5, 2019: Florida Agency For Health Care Administration releases a Request For Information For Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program (pdf | archived copy)
- May 6, 2019: Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew Issues Statement on the Passage of SB 1528/HB 19: Prescription Drug Importation Programs
- June 11, 2019: Governor Ron DeSantis Signs CS/HB 19: Prescription Drug Importation Programs
- June 13, 2019: The Drug Wholesale Distributor Advisory Council Discusses HB19 in Their June Meeting: Excerpt of Minutes
- June 18, 2019: Florida Board of Pharmacy Board Meeting discussing HB19
- HB 19: Text of the Bill | Florida House Staff Analysis
- May 5, 2019: Florida's Request For Information For Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program (Archived copy)
- June 25, 2019: Responses to the Request for Information
- American Senior Alliance
- Epilepsy Association of the Big Bend (not provided to us in our FOIA request to Florida)
- Ernst and Young
- Health Distribution Alliance
- Maximus, Inc.
- Oncology Managers of Florida
- The Partnership for Safe Medicines
- State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (not provided to us in our FOIA request to Florida)
- June 27, 2019: International Export Pharmacy Permit Application, DRAFT
Background / resources
Just learning about the Florida foreign drug importation proposal? Start with some of these resources that outline the safety issues.
- "The Deadly Counterfeit Drug Trade Thrives in Florida" (May 2019 counterfeit incident summary)
- "10 Reasons Not to Import Drugs From Canada"
- Television advertisements:
Op-eds from the Experts
This editorial by Perry Thurston Jr. was published in Florida Politics on July 16, 2019. In it, State Senator Thurston explains that state-implemented drug importation will not bring any medication cost savings to Floridians.
This editorial by Adam Fein and Dirk Rodgers was published in Stat News on July 11, 2019. In it, Fein and Rodgers warn that plans by states to create drug importation programs will open new pathways for counterfeit drugs to enter the U.S. drug supply chain…
This editorial by Guy Anthony was published in the Orlando Sentinel on June 12, 2019. Anthony, President and CEO of Black, Gifted & Whole, a nonprofit focused on issues surrounding black, queer men, warns that drug importation will open up “a market for dangerous, counterfeit drugs” that will make it harder for people to live with HIV and other complex illnesses.
In this editorial published on April 26, 2019, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, economist and President of American Action Forum, questions economic truths about drug importation:
“Drug reimportation has long been the fool’s gold of health policy, and the Florida bill is no different. It flunks a basic policy analysis. But most amazing, it is drafted to raise hope, but not actually help Floridians.”
In this piece published in the Washington Free Beacon on April 25, 2019, staff writer Charles Fain Lehman explores issues around Florida’s drug importation proposal. “Critics,” he notes, “fear that the actual realities of regulatory oversight—especially in the hand of an as-yet-unnamed private vendor—will simply be too challenging to manage responsibly.”
In this piece, which was published on the ABC affiliate WJLA’s website on April 25, 2019, political analyst Boris Epshteyn explains that “this is a risky plan that will make it difficult to ensure that Floridians are receiving real and safe medicine.”
In this piece, which was published in the Inside Sources on April 22, 2019, Michael Graham reviews the case against drug importation: “As Scott Gottlieb said in 2016 before becoming President Trump’s FDA chief…’There are simply too many channels for fake drugs to enter any importation scheme to forgo some meaningful controls.’”
In this editorial, which was published in the Palm Beach Post on April 22, 2019, Michelle Flowers writes about Florida’s history of black market cancer treatments and the danger importation poses to patients. Flowers is president of the Oncology Managers of Florida.
In this editorial, which was published in The Santa Cruz Sentinel on April 18, 2019, business columnist Jeffrey Scharf argues that importation of prescription drugs is a plan that is too good to be true.
The editorial board of the The Wall Street Journal published this editorial on April 15, 2019. In it, they write:
“The argument that drug importation threatens the integrity of the drug supply is often dismissed because pharmaceutical lobbyists make it. But keeping the drug supply free from contaminated or counterfeit products is not easy, and the World Health Organization has warned that 1 in 10 medical products in the developing world are phony. It isn’t clear who is liable if counterfeits are found in Florida, but you can bet it won’t be the politicians.”