New survey suggests some Floridians skeptical of the idea of importing prescription drugs in an effort to lower prices

by | Jun 18, 2019

A week after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law allowing prescription drug importation into the state, a new survey of Republican and Independent voters in Florida and five other states shows just 44 percent support the idea of importing medications from foreign countries, excluding Canada.

Allowing prescription drugs to be imported into the state, defies the traditional thinking of the GOP when it comes to addressing the high prices of pharmaceuticals.

DeSantis rejected the traditional views of Republicans on the matter when he proposed importing prescription drugs earlier this year as a way to combat the state’s high price it pays for pharmaceuticals.

“This will have the potential to save the state a lot of money,” DeSantis said at last week’s bill signing. “I’m just glad that we’re here today and able to say we’re listening to the people who have concerns about these costs, and we’re taking action to help get people relief.”

Florida’s importation program calls for the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, to choose Canadian wholesalers and license them to export specific, high-cost drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to Florida.

AHCA will work with state health agencies and the federal government to assemble the program, with final approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Once approved, cheaper imported medications will be dispensed by local pharmacies to any Floridian with a prescription.

But the findings of the study conducted by the Tarrance Group shows voters in the six states are skeptical about where there prescription drugs are coming from.

The survey findings from all represented states, Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Maine, Ohio, and Colorado, show that 56 percent of voters are opposed to foreign drug importation. In Florida alone, 54 percent of voters are in opposition. The survey also found that 40 percent of voters in Florida are not at all confident that drugs imported from other countries are the same quality as drugs sold in the United States.

“The poll results confirm what we hear from our patients: Americans aren’t looking for just another option to purchase less expensive drugs, they want the entire system fixed so everyone can have access to affordable medication at any time,” said Monique M. Whitney, executive director, Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency. “The simplest solution is a transparent system that exposes and eliminates the kind of backroom deals and perverse incentives associated with the business practices of pharmacy benefit managers.”

The survey shows opposition to importing pharmaceutical drugs rises with the age of the voter, reaching 63 percent among those aged 65 and older.

Forty-five percent say they are not at all confident that drugs imported from other countries are the same quality as those sold in America. There are 37% who are somewhat confident, and only 19% who are very confident.

In response to criticism, DeSantis has insisted that only FDA-approved drugs can be imported and only from FDA-approved suppliers.

Critics of the plan say importing drugs from Canada would do little to lower drug costs because the Canadian pharmaceutical industry is smaller than that of the U.S.

There is no guarantee that HHS Secretary Alex Azar will even agree to drug importation plan, which he has referred to as an ineffective “gimmick.”

But DeSantis insists that he has the support of President Donald Trump.



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