The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the top trade group for drug producers in the US does not want to see any U.S. states import prescription drugs from Canada. If states are allowed to import drugs from Canada, that would save U.S. consumers lots of money. But pharmaceutical companies, for obvious reasons, don’t want that to happen and therefore filed a lawsuit last November, even though federal approval has thus far not been granted to implement such a plan. Six states, have asked for federal approval to allow for the importation of pharmaceutical drugs from Canada. The states which are furthest along in plans to get approval are Florida, Colorado and New Mexico.
It seems that the Biden administration is on one hand siding with the states and consumers at this point, as it just urged a federal court to dismiss the PhRMA’s lawsuit. The White House, in a legal brief, argued that the lawsuit (filed last year) was premature, based on the fact that the federal government has yet to approve an importation drug program.
On the other hand, despite seeking dismissal of the lawsuit, the Biden administration has announced no timeline on whether it will approve the plan, which was initially approved under former President Trump in order to control drug costs.
Drug companies, argues the Biden White House in a legal brief, have preemptively filed a lawsuit, essentially attacking a program that has yet to be implemented. “Although two proposals have been submitted to FDA, no timeline exists for the agency to make a decision,” the government’s motion states, per WinkNews.com.
The lack of timeline by the Biden Administration has drawn criticism from Florida Gov. Ron De Santis, who is mulling a 2024 presidential run, and called on the White House to approve the Sunshine State’s drug import application.
Last week, DeSantis said that if the Canadian drug importation program is approved Florida residents could save as much as $150 million in prescription costs—in the program’s first year.
DeSantis cleared the way for drug imports from Canada when he signed a bill in 2019. But in order for prescriptions from north of the border to be shipped, DeSantis needs federal approval.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still needs to review the plan. And the Canadian government has suggested that it is concerned that if the US approves the importation, a shortage of drugs north of the border may arise.
Although the Biden Administration wants the lawsuit dropped, it appears in no hurry to have the FDA review the federal importation proposals.
This has led to DeSantis issuing a statement: “It is disappointing that the FDA appears to have no timeline to review any state importation proposals as referenced in today’s filing.” DeSantis added, “Floridians have been waiting long enough for lower drug prices, and there is no good reason to keep them waiting.”
It is not illegal for US citizens to purchase drugs over the border—either north or south in Mexico. But it is illegal to import drugs, despite the fact that for 20 years, according to KHN.org, storefronts in Florida have helped people purchase drugs online from Canada at half the price of U.S. costs. From time to time, FDA has cracked down on storefronts but for the most part allows said businesses to remain open.
Despite Florida’s plan to import approximately 150 drugs, insulin is not included. Other states are expected to follow in the footsteps of Florida, Colorado and New Mexico. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are the three other states to have formally introduced plans to import Canadian drugs.