Senate

Sanders 'delighted' DeSantis asked White House to import Canadian prescription drugs

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in an interview published on Wednesday that he was "delighted" that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was pushing for cheaper drugs to be imported from Canada.

Speaking to Business Insider, Sanders said he was not bothered that DeSantis and former President Trump had put their support behind importing cheaper medicines from Canada, an idea that the Vermont senator has long advocated for as a way of lowering prescription drug prices.

"That's great. I'm not into intellectual property rights on good ideas," Sanders told the outlet in an interview on Tuesday. "If people want to steal them, I'm delighted."

DeSantis's office has estimated that importing drugs that treat illnesses like HIV/AIDS, diabetes and asthma could save Florida up to $150 million a year, Insider notes.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Sanders rode in a bus with American patients across the U.S.-Canada border to purchase insulin in Canada for a tenth of the cost in the U.S.

Sanders told Insider that he has not discussed drug importation with the Biden administration, but has spoken with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

One of President Biden's campaign promises was authorizing drug imports into the U.S., though approving the move would appear to hand a political win to the Florida governor, who is an ardent support of Trump. 

However, during his campaign, Biden said that a goal of his presidency would be to reach across the aisle and work with the GOP to get things done. 

Sanders said lawmakers should look beyond politics when it comes to the ambitious plan.

The Biden administration has not yet indicated where it stands on the issue. Last month the administration urged a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by pharmaceutical companies that sought to prevent states from importing drugs.

"To date, no SIPs have been authorized. Although two proposals have been submitted to FDA, no timeline exists for the agency to make a decision. Thus, the possible future injuries to Plaintiffs' members are overly speculative and not imminent, involving an attenuated chain of possibilities with independent third-parties and discretionary decisions of various government actors," the administration said in a court filing.

"It is disappointing that the FDA appears to have no timeline to review any state importation proposals," DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw told Insider. "Floridians have been waiting long enough for lower drug prices, and there is no good reason to keep them waiting."

Insider notes that pharmaceutical companies have argued against imports, saying they could lead to unsafe medicines being introduced into the U.S., an argument that Sanders rejected.

"If we can import vegetables, poultry, fish and every item that you can think of from other countries, then there is no reason that we cannot safely, with FDA approval, reimport medicine manufactured abroad at a far lower price than we pay in the U.S.," Sanders said.

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