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DeSantis Tries To Build Support For Drug Imports

A pharmacist looks at a shelving unit full of pill bottles.
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media

In a move that could suggest one of his top legislative priorities is encountering stiff resistance, Gov. Ron DeSantis took time Monday to defend his push to allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. 

DeSantis went to Sun City Center, a well-known retirement community just south of Tampa, where he repeated past statements that President Donald Trump supports the effort, which would eventually need federal approval to be put in place.

“Immediately he said, ‘You go tell the people of Florida that I support it, you go do it, I’m for you --- I want this to happen,’ ” DeSantis said.

DeSantis acknowledged that some people in the Trump administration may be opposed, but added, “He’s the one that got the electoral votes, not them, so I’m going with the guy in charge.”

But while DeSantis has touted Trump’s approval for the effort, it is not clear that the administration would agree to the proposal if it were passed by the Florida Legislature. And getting it through the state House and Senate may not be assured.

House leaders have pushed the issue forward, saying it could lower prescription-drug costs, but it has not moved as quickly in the Senate.

Senate sponsor Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told the crowd at Sun City Center that “the status quo will not go quietly in the night” and that drug companies were hiring many lobbyists to defeat the bill.

Later Monday, however, Bean insisted that the Sun City Center event was not designed to rally support for the legislation.

Bean told The News Service of Florida that the bill would clear the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, which he chairs, on Tuesday.

“We’re in a flight path to bring this thing together,” he said.

Meanwhile, during a lengthy meeting of the Senate Health Policy Committee on Monday, senators heard a presentation from Saumil Pandya, deputy vice president of policy and research at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Pandya told lawmakers that in 2017 brand list prices for drugs, after accounting for rebates and discounts, increased by about 1.5 percent.

“These are not big numbers. These are not such large things that the system could not handle going forward. It absolutely can handle it going forward,” he said.

Pandya said lawmakers are hearing complaints because insured patients are unhappy with what they pay for prescriptions. And those costs, he said, are a function of insurance benefit designs.

“Insurance companies decided how much you pay for your medicine,” he said.