Biden administration sides with Florida on Canadian drug imports

Biden’s government argues that the drug industry is acting too early on its legal challenge because the rule and procedure for importing drugs has never been officially implemented. | Joe Raedle / Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE – President Joe Biden’s administration filed a motion in federal court Friday night to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at preventing prescription drugs from being imported from Canada – a plan Florida is seeking to pursue.

The Biden government’s application is largely on the side of Florida and New Mexico, the only other state that has officially started filing for Canadian imports. The motion calls on a federal court in Washington to bring a lawsuit by Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, which represents branded drugs, against the Department of Health and Human Services.

The government argues that the drug industry is acting too early on its legal challenge because the rule and procedure for importing drugs has never been officially implemented.

“A future implementation, if it does happen, might not go as the plaintiffs speculate. In the meantime nothing is required of the members of the plaintiffs. The complaint therefore contains “abstract hypotheses or requests for expert opinions,” says the application.

In 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that created a framework that would allow Florida to import prescription drugs from Canada – a move that requires federal approval. The first stages began under the administration of former President Donald Trump, but now have to be approved by Biden’s administration, which is increasingly attacking DeSantis as he positions himself to run for president, likely in 2024.

Proponents of the Canadian import plan say it will disrupt drug markets and drive prices down. However, the plan is heavily opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which sued federal health officials, arguing that the plan posed “significant safety risks” and “would provide little or no savings to American consumers.”

The January drug lobby also tried to block Florida’s plan in particular, claiming it would “endanger patient safety”.

The idea of ​​importing drugs from Canada was touted by Trump for years in order to get cheaper drugs. Policy experts – including Trump’s secretary for health and human services – warned that doing so would bring little savings to consumers and raise safety concerns about imported products. Several progressive Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Have also supported imports of pharmaceuticals over the years, but bills have not gained momentum and states’ earlier efforts have stalled without federal support.

Trump unveiled a proposal in July 2019 that would leave states to devise drug import plans that would require buy-in from drug companies and the Canadian government, both of which oppose such measures. DeSantis, an ally of Trump, was the first state governor to submit a plan to the federal government, claiming the proposal could save more than $ 150 million annually.

However, critics argue that oversight and safety measures to track imported medicines can save money and could cost consumers virtually the same. States would also have to create legal frameworks that could take years to implement.

“If you put Canadian drugs on a dogsled and directed it towards Florida, this regulatory proposal would make the dogs arrive long before any drugs,” wrote Chris Meekins, a former HHS official in the Trump administration who is now with Raymond James , previously in a note to investors.

During the Florida legislature in 2019, when the state’s GOP-dominated legislation pondered a Canadian drug imports law, the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposed the plan, running television ads in opposition to the Florida media markets. The battle for Canadian imports was a dominant theme during this year’s legislature.

On Friday, DeSantis held a press conference calling on the Biden government to approve Florida’s plan to import Canadian drugs.

“I’m watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my daughter and I see, oh, Governor DeSantis and his henchmen want to bring in these dangerous drugs from Djibouti or wherever. It was nonsense,” DeSantis said.

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