Drug importation plan is a ‘win-win,’ claims Florida health official

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a long-awaited, first-of-its-kind plan to expand trade with Canada through the importation of pharmaceutical drugs to lower costs for consumers.

For decades, experts and consumers alike have advocated opening trade in prescription drugs between the United States and Canada. However, since Florida’s plan was approved, some have attempted to sow fear through the media that expanding trade with Florida could lead to drug shortages in Canada. While that concern is understandable at face value, the facts show that Canadians have no reason to be worried.

Florida’s plan, first proposed in November 2020, is very limited. Florida will only buy from a specific list of drugs, for use only with specific populations. Eligible drugs focus primarily on the treatment of mental health, prostate cancer, congenital genetic disorders and HIV/AIDS. These drugs would go to Florida Medicaid patients and those in the care of other Florida programs and agencies. To make it perfectly clear, Florida has not proposed to import all drugs, let alone make them available to our entire population.

As an extra safeguard, Health Canada has expressly stated that regulations under the Food and Drugs Act will protect against exporting drugs that would cause or worsen a shortage in Canada. This ensures that Florida’s importation plan will not cause shortages in Canada. Additionally, Florida is consistently monitoring the Canadian government’s list of drugs that are vulnerable to shortages. It’s not in Florida’s interest to undermine the mutual benefits of our longstanding relationship.

The unfortunate truth is that the loudest voices claiming Florida’s plan will cause drug shortages are not from consumers, but the pharmaceutical companies and the trade groups they fund. These companies are worried that greater trade will lower costs for consumers and cut into their bottom line. Their warnings ring particularly hollow because they control the supply. In fact, across the border in the United States, pharmaceutical companies and their trade groups have tried to claim that Canadian drugs are somehow “unsafe” and a threat to public health. But if big pharma really cared about public health, why not make rampant price-gouging in the United States and Canada an area of focus? At the end of the day, pharmaceutical companies aren’t worried about drug shortages or safety as much as they fear any threat to their bloated profits.

One thing is clear: Florida’s plan is a win-win for both Canada and Florida. Florida’s plan is designed to relieve pressure on an already overburdened government health-care system, and this plan will bring tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in new business to Canada.

As a second home for millions of Canadians, with 3 million visiting annually, Florida hopes this continued partnership with Canada in lowering prescription drug costs will benefit the populations of both the Sunshine State and America’s neighbour to the North. We thank Canada for the time it has already devoted to meeting and communicating with us and sincerely appreciate their partnership in this battle to lower prescription drug prices.

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Jason Weida


Jason Weida is Florida’s Secretary of Health Care Administration.

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