Florida GOP governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs from Canada

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus Paul Krugman ripped for saying COVID-19 'coming for white supremacists' in golf carts MORE (R) on Wednesday proposed importing cheaper prescription drugs from Canada into the state and said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE had given his support to the idea.

The announcement from DeSantis at a press conference Wednesday represents a potentially major step in bringing down the cost of drugs and one usually associated with Democrats.


Significantly, given that state action would require federal approval to take effect under a 2003 law, DeSantis said he had personally spoken to Trump over the weekend and that Trump said his administration would approve the move.

“I want you to know I spoke personally to President Trump on both Sunday and Monday about this,” DeSantis said. “He's not only supportive, he's enthusiastic, and he wanted me to tell all of you here today that he supports what we're doing and he will take the necessary executive actions to make sure that we can act under this 2003 law.” 

Spokespeople for the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment or to confirm Trump’s support.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said, "We evaluate all individual proposals from states once submitted to the Department."

If Trump were to approve drug importation, it would be a major step that would buck the traditional Republican position and the pharmaceutical industry, which strongly opposes the idea and warns that there are not safeguards to ensure imported drugs are safe.

Trump has railed against high drug costs and supported drug importation during the 2016 campaign, but has since backed off the idea.

“I'll be working with the Trump administration and the legislature to create a prescription drug importation program to bring Floridians less expensive, FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada,” DeSantis said.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar dismissed the idea last year as a “gimmick” and said it would not work because Canada does not have enough drugs to sell to the United States.

Vermont last year passed a bill to allow drug importation but did not receive the necessary federal approval. That could change with the move from DeSantis, who has been an ally of Trump both in his previous role in Congress and now as governor, after being elected in November.

"While we haven’t seen a formal proposal from the governor, importation schemes are the wrong approach," said Tiffany Haverly, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. She said the industry would work with lawmakers on other ideas, "but proposals like this that brush patient safety aside are not the answer."

Updated at 5:37 p.m.