The Medicare Modernization Act (2003) allows states to enact their own drug importation laws. The Act specifies that such laws would only be valid if the federal government reviewed and approved a state’s proposal to import prescription drugs. Despite the length of time since the passage of the Act, no state has enacted such law and submitted the proposal for federal approval. In 2018, Vermont was the first state to enact a prescription-drug importation law but it has never submitted the law for federal approval.
Things might change with the newly enacted Florida law allowing prescription drug importation from Canada and possibly other countries in the future. The law 1) authorizes a Canadian supplier to export drugs into Florida under certain circumstances, 2) establishes an international export pharmacy permit for participation in the International Prescription Drug Importation Program; 3) authorizes the state to inspect international export pharmacy permittees to ensure that the products are not adulterated or misbranded.
The governor of Florida is optimistic that there would be no hurdles in obtaining federal approval as President Trump is very vocal about his commitment to lower drug prices. In addition, the bill analysis cites that U.S. spends 30%-190% more on prescription drugs that other developed countries and pays up to 174% more for the same prescription drug. Therefore, Florida decided that an effective way to reduce prescription drug spending was to import cheaper drugs.
A pharmaceutical research group – representing the Big Pharma interest – expressed concerns that the law would allow the importation of potentially counterfeit, misbranded or ineffective prescription drugs. However, certain assurances and oversights are built in the law, such as licensure and inspections. Also, these medications are taken by Canadian folks and such medications are effective in treating their conditions. Why the same medications should receive an inflated price if sold in U.S.?
But will Canada permit its lower-cost drugs to be imported into the U.S. thereby reducing the overall supply available for Canadians? Because the U.S. population takes more drugs than its Canadian neighbor, the adequate supply simply might not be available. And how about enacting a law – as Canada has done – imposing limits on how much pharmaceutical companies can charge?