The White House is backing an attempt by Florida to allow the state to import drugs from Canada, a departure from past administrations that opposed the policy proposal over concerns it could result in consumers taking unsafe or counterfeit medications.
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President Trump asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to help Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, implement the legislation, which recently passed the state legislature, according to media reports and a statement from the White House.
DeSantis met with Trump, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other White House officials on Monday. At the meeting, Trump asked Azar and DeSantis to "work together to explore additional options, including drug importation opportunities, to reduce drug prices in a safe way," a spokesman said.
Azar would be required to certify that the plan would not put patients at risk, as well as lower costs. In a statement, an HHS spokeswoman said both Trump and Azar are “very open to the importation of prescription drugs as long as it can be done safely and can deliver real results for American patients.”
The Food and Drug Administration has long been opposed to the idea of drug importation over fears that it could both impede the agency’s mission to ensure medication taken by U.S. patients is safe, as well as lead to a flood of counterfeit prescription treatments.
The agency, for example, sent a warning letter to CanaRx earlier this year for distributing unapproved, potentially dangerous drugs to the U.S.
“When companies sidestep important drug safety measures and put patient health at risk by providing unapproved drugs that have been substituted for FDA-approved prescription drugs, it’s the agency’s responsibility to step in to protect the patients,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement at the time.
Gottlieb took to Twitter on Tuesday to highlight the push to pass measures to increase the security of the U.S. drug supply chain as a result of “counterfeit drug problems originating in Florida.”
The pharmaceutical industry has also long been opposed to drug reimportation