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Jan 5, 2024, 4:58pm EST
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FDA allows Florida to buy cheaper drugs from Canada

Insights from NBC News, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the New York Times, STAT News, and KFF

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks about prescription drug costs during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., on Dec. 14.
(REUTERS/Leah Millis)
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The News

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized a mechanism that would allow Florida to purchase millions of dollars’ worth of medications from Canada at far cheaper prices than in the U.S., despite fierce objections from the pharmaceutical industry.

In a major policy shift, the state will now be allowed to import some drugs from Canadian wholesalers for use in its Medicaid programs, as well as in government clinics and prisons.

The road to implementing this new plan could be rocky, however, as a key trade group has sued over importation efforts in the past and is expected to do so again.

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Experts are skeptical that the plan will be implemented

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Sources:  
NBC News, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Health policy experts are skeptical that importing drugs from Canada will address the root cause of soaring drug prices in the U.S. — and say the plan may not even go into effect. “Having the FDA approve the importation plan is one step, but there are other major steps that make this difficult to do," one expert told NBC News. Canada has long been wary of becoming a major exporter of drugs to the U.S., worrying that such a move could fuel drug shortages on home soil. A representative for Canadian pharmacists told CBC that Canadians didn’t need to rush to their pharmacies to stock up. “This may never happen,” she said.

The Inflation Reduction Act may offer a clearer path to lower prices

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Source:  
The New York Times

Drug-cost reduction measures in President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act offer a “more direct path to lowering prices” than tapping into Canada’s supply, pharma policy experts told the New York Times. The IRA lets Medicaid negotiate the prices of a few expensive drugs directly with drugmakers, which is expected to save the federal government around $98.5 billion over a decade. One health law expert told the Times that allowing the government to negotiate prices with drug companies is a “pretty straightforward solution,” while the importation plan is a “jerry-rigged, complicated approach.”

Both parties will fight to take credit for import plan

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Sources:  
STAT News, KFF

Drug importation is popular with voters – and with the Florida plan approved, President Joe Biden is likely to find himself in a tussle with the state’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis over who should take credit, one pollster told the health news website STAT News. Because the savings are eventually passed on to healthcare consumers, using imports to tamp down drug prices is popular across the aisle. A 2019 study from the non-profit health research group KFF found that 78% of respondents favored allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs imported from Canada, and DeSantis, who has been pushing for this plan for years, has long blamed Biden for the FDA approval taking so long to materialize.

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