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Health News Florida

Florida Sends Proposal To Feds Advancing Canadian Drug Importation Plan

Florida on Monday sent the federal government its plans for a program to import prescription medicines from Canada, aimed at lowering drug prices. The program was approved by the state legislature last year.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced Monday the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration has submitted its plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Florida’s Canadian Drug Importation Program.

The AHCA, which oversees Medicaid in Florida, has new leadership at the helm. Shevaun Harris, who has been with the agency for nearly four years, took over as its secretary in October. The leadership change came after former secretary Mary Mayhew left to become CEO of the Florida Hospital Association.

Initially, importation will be limited to a handful of drug types, including those for patients who have asthma, HIV or AIDS, or diabetes. Florida would become the first state in the nation to implement such a program.

Officials say the agency “will soon contract with a vendor to manage and oversee all aspects of the program and ensure Canadian suppliers and eligible importers comply with all federal and state law requirements.”

Kaiser Health News last month reported Florida is struggling to attract a private firm to operate the program, having missed an initial September deadline to secure a contract bid with a company.

The Florida legislature passed the program, which allows only wholesalers and pharmacies to import drugs, during the 2019 legislative session. It is intended to serve what some legislators refer to as “vulnerable populations.” That includes Medicaid patients, inmates in the Department of Corrections and those getting medications from the Department of Health.

A release from the DeSantis administration says the state’s proposal “comports with all the requirements of the newly published rule and includes all the necessary safeguards to ensure counterfeit drugs do not enter the supply chain.”

Florida lawmakers also approved as part of the 2019 legislation a separate, but similar program that would allow importation of prescriptions from other foreign countries. It would be for use by anyone in the state, and it’s not limited to Canadian imports. The International Prescription Drug Importation Program will be housed under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Rules on prescription drug importation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration become final November 30.

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