There’s a battle going on in Tallahassee between the pharmaceutical industry and state leaders who want to save Florida patients money on  prescription drugs by allowing cheaper medications to be imported from Canada.

It’s a battle that’s gone so far as to find its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2-year-old daughter’s favorite children’s show — Masha and the Bear.  

“I press play and I’m ready to see this cute little girl with her bear. And instead what comes on is this 30-second ad saying that there are politicians in Tallahassee who want to bring drugs from China so that everyone dies,” DeSantis said. “Jeez – Masha and the Bear?

A group called  Partnership for Safe Medicines, whose 69-member organization that include pharmaceutical companies, pharmacist associations, various U.S. medical groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are airing television ads attacking proposals being considered in the state Legislature that would permit cheaper drugs to be imported from Canada. The ad implies the drugs that would be imported would be counterfeit and pose dangers to Floridians who take them.

“Do you think I’m just going to, like, bring in a lot of drugs from Pakistan and off the street?” DeSantis told those who attended an AARP town hall meeting on prescription drug held in Tallahassee on Tuesday. “C’mon. We’re talking about, there’s a process in place. A country like Canada, they’re a wealthy, modern democracy” with safety regulations in place.”

DeSantis first proposed allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada, where they are considerably cheaper, shortly after he took office in January.

Federal law currently allows states to import prescription drugs if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves it. But the FDA hasn’t been willing to do so.

“This president has indicated to me that he sees that differently and would want to work with us,” DeSantis said.

To illustrate the inequity in drug prices in the U.S. and Canada, DeSantis pointed to the cost of drugs that the state needs to treat prison inmates suffering from hepatitis C.  “We’d save millions and millions of dollars, without question,” he said.

“We are here to reinforce the message that prescription medication needs to be available at a fair and reasonable cost to Floridians,” said DeSantis. “We can lower healthcare costs by creating a drug importation program to bring in less expensive, FDA-approved, safe prescription drugs from Canada. These outrageously high prices are placing a serious financial strain on Floridians in need.”

A bill to allow prescription drugs from Canada to be purchased by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration and imported for use has passed the Florida House and now awaits action in the Senate. It’s sponsor, Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, says he is optimistic of its passage.

Bean says the television ad campaign attacking the legislation is a sign that Florida is threatening the large  profits of the pharmaceuticals.

“It says we have struck a nerve,” Bean insists. “We’ve struck a nerve and we have discovered something they don’t want anybody else to know or make any changes because we are paying the highest prices on the planet for  prescription drugs.”