Trump directs health chief to work on allowing Florida to import cheaper drugs

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President Trump has directed his health chief to work on a proposal for Florida to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, and signaled his desire to approve the plan, according to a GOP lawmaker from the state.

Trump met with officials including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) at the White House on Monday to discuss the governor’s proposal to lower drug prices by importing cheaper drugs from Canada.

Trump expressed his desire for the state to come up with an importation plan that he could approve, Gaetz told The Hill.{mosads}

“It was very clear that the president wants to see an actionable plan that he can approve for drug importation,” he said.

Trump directed the officials to “get a legally compliant plan before him promptly,” Gaetz added.

“The president asked Secretary Azar and Governor DeSantis to work together to explore additional options, including drug importation opportunities, to reduce drug prices in a safe way for Floridians,” the White House said in a statement on Monday night.

“President Trump and Secretary Azar are firmly committed to getting drug prices down,” HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said Tuesday when asked about the meeting. “They are both very open to the importation of prescription drugs as long as it can be done safely and can deliver real results for American patients.”

The development marks a significant break from the traditional GOP position, which is opposed to drug importation. Republicans often cite concerns such as whether the safety of the imported drugs could be assured.

The pharmaceutical industry is also fiercely opposed to the idea.

Trump has long railed against the high cost of drugs and has at times proposed breaks from GOP orthodoxy on drug prices in the past.

Democrats, though, have accused Trump of not actually following through on his calls to lower drug prices.

And, according to Gaetz, at least one top Trump adviser has concerns with the idea.

Azar, who last year dismissed the idea of drug importation as a “gimmick” that would not work, expressed concerns about the idea in the meeting, the Florida lawmaker said.

Gaetz said that while the president was “mindful” of those concerns, he wanted to go forward with the idea, and cautioned Azar against slowing it down.

“He cautioned Secretary Azar against taking any steps that would unnecessarily delay the implementation,” Gaetz said.

In fact, Trump initially proposed having Florida submit a proposal in just two days, according to Gaetz, but DeSantis asked for additional time.

In perhaps a troubling sign for the pharmaceutical industry, Trump also asked the governor whether the idea of drug importation could be expanded to other states, and the two agreed that it eventually could be, Gaetz said.

Updated at 12:38 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Matt Gaetz Ron DeSantis

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