The Phoenix Flyer

Canadian diplomat dubious over Florida’s plans to import cheaper pharmaceuticals

By: - November 8, 2019 11:27 am

Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Canada. Credit: Raul Heinrich via Wikimedia Commons

A Canadian diplomat is pouring cold water on Florida’s hopes to import cheaper pharmaceutical drugs from Canada on a mass scale.

“We do sympathize with Florida’s situation, but we want to get the point across that the Canadian market, while safe and secure, is just too small to make a real impact on U.S. drug prices,” said Natalija Marjanovic, consul in Miami for political, economic, and public affairs.

“To put it in perspective, the U.S. consumes 44 percent of the global prescription drug supply, compared to Canada’s 2 percent. That’s quite a difference in the supply and demand. To bring it even closer to home, Canada consumes $24.5 billion worth of prescription drugs a year whereas Florida alone consumes $34.5 billion. So you can see the difference there,” she said.

“All this is to say that Canada opposes any actions that could endanger the health and safety of Canadians by threatening the supply of prescription drugs in Canada or raise the costs of prescription drugs for Canadians.”

The drug-importation project is a major priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who did much to persuade the Legislature to OK the plan during its spring regular session. President Trump has directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to draft rules to guide the process, but there’s no word when they might be ready – or whether Florida officials could guarantee the safety of these drugs.

Mary Mayhew, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Administration, briefed a Senate committee about the project earlier this week.

Marjanovic, who serves in Canada’s Miami consulate, confirmed that she and Consul General Susan Harper traveled to Tallahassee to meet with “the key interlocutors” on Florida’s plans. “We did register Canada’s position to them.”

She suggested certain economic realities might get in the way.

“We’re definitely cheaper, but we’re not cheap,” she said. “I think we’re, like, third among industrial nations in terms of the price for drugs. The U.S. is probably the most expensive, Switzerland is second, Canada is third.”

Marjanovic sounded doubtful that the Canadian market could grow enough to meet both Canadian demand ‘in this heavily controlled industry” and demand from Florida and other U.S. states.

“Our position is pretty set, and we’re pretty firm on the fact that we don’t think that we’re your silver bullet where this is confirmed.”

Might the Canadian government take steps to block a cross-border pharmaceutical trade? It hasn’t decided yet, Marjanovic said. “They’re still looking at that back in Ottawa,” she said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.