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Wholesale drug importation

This week, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed into a law HB 19 to create a state prescription drug importation program. The goal is to lower the state’s prescription drug bill and the prices Florida residents pay at pharmacy counters by importing lower-cost medicines from Canada and other countries that have similarly strict pharmaceutical regulatory standards.

The main point of this blog post is to state that this law in Florida, much like the laws that have passed in Vermont and Colorado, create WHOLESALE not PERSONAL drug importation programs.

Through the programs, generally, eligible Canadian pharmacy wholesalers will be allowed to export FDA-approved prescription drugs to eligible wholesale and retail pharmacies in the states with the new laws – but not other states. Then, the lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada will be dispensed through state-run facilities, like the Florida Department of Corrections, or through retail pharmacies.

In contrast to wholesale drug importation, personal drug importation is when a person imports a medicine directly from a pharmacy in Canada or another country for their own use only – not for resale. The aforementioned state laws on drug importation do not open or make available new channels of personal drug importation. Of course, millions of Americans already import medicines through personal drug importation. Feel free to dive into the law and regulations on personal drug importation.

Just because a state has passed one of these drug importation laws does not mean it’s legal to start importing lower-cost prescription drugs. The laws require state agencies to gain approval by the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, per Section 804 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Under Section 804, importation programs from Canada are legal if the HHS Secretary certifies that they do not pose additional safety risks and will result in substantial savings.

Per a report released in January of this year, Vermont is furthest along in setting up an importation program, but is waiting to see how events play out in Florida before taking the next steps.

Drug companies and groups that they fund have tried very hard to prevent state drug importation laws from passing, through lobbying and media relations campaigns. I’m happy to say that, in many instances, they have failed.

One of their schemes is to claim that state drug importation laws will exacerbate dangerous imports of counterfeit and opioid drugs from “so-called” Canadian pharmacies over the Internet. Americans do buy lower cost medications from Canada and other countries, and they do fall victim to rogue online pharmacies, too. However, as explained, the state programs have nothing to do with either of those. It’s wholesale drug importation; it’s not personal.

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