THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced a proposed action that would significantly lower the cost of everyday prescriptions. The plan, devised in cooperation with Florida lawmakers, would also allow consumers to shop for better prices at any pharmacy – including small, independent pharmacies – regardless of their health plan.
“If you look at Bidenflation from July 2021 to July 2022, the average price increase for prescription drugs was 31.6 percent... that has a huge impact on a lot of folks, particularly senior citizens,” DeSantis stated.
The governor says the plan is the most comprehensive prescription drug legislation in Florida history. If passed, the bill would increase transparency and accountability in Florida’s prescription drug market – codifying Executive Order 22-164, which DeSantis signed last year to protect consumers and small businesses.
“There is so much bureaucracy, there’s middlemen involved,” DeSantis said. “A whole host of things that have been built up over the years. So there’s a lot of people that make a lot of money, and the people that end up paying are the consumers… some of these community pharmacies.”
TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
“The three largest PMBs control 80 percent of the market,” DeSantis said, referring to pharmacy benefit managers, companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of insurance carriers.
“They act as middlemen between insurers and pharmaceutical companies, and they face scrutiny nationwide for some of their trade practices.”
Consumer protections include prohibiting PMBs from mandating that consumers use specific mail-order pharmacies and ensuring that PMBs allow the use of other pharmacies not affiliated with them. Additionally, small businesses would receive protection from surprise bills that often come months after filling prescriptions.
The bill would also force drug manufacturers to disclose any proposed price increases before they go into effect. It would increase annual reporting requirements by manufacturers, who would have to justify any price increases. The Office of Insurance Regulation would have the authority to take action to hold PBMs accountable if they violate state law.
“Washington is crawling with people who don’t care about you and me,” said Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. “They have priorities, but they’re not you and me. Governor DeSantis is an exception, which is why he is such a vital resource.”
Dr. Ladapo said he wanted to dispel a myth that often comes up when you see any type of healthcare reform. The myth, according to Ladapo, is that pharmaceutical companies are spending billions on research and development. Instead, Ladapo said that most prescription drug innovations take place at universities.
“The pharmaceutical companies certainly do a service in manufacturing and distribution, but they take credit for all of it, including the research.” Ladapo says that when a pharmaceutical company tells you that they need to charge you ten times the amount they are charging someone in another country, “it’s a total lie.”
PREVIOUS EFFORTS BLOCKED BY THE FDA
As the governor spoke to a crowded room in The Villages – a planned retirement community that spans three zip codes – he expressed frustration at the hold-up of a previous measure (CS/HB 19) passed by the Florida Legislature in July 2019. The law authorized the Sunshine State to import medications directly from Canada at significantly lower prices.
But the plan needed approval by the federal government before implementation. According to DeSantis, the Biden administration has stonewalled the program.
“These are the same drugs,” DeSantis said during his 2019 announcement of the measure at LifeScience Logistics Distribution Center in Lakeland. “You just get them for a fraction of the price compared to what you do in the U.S. market.”
Florida submitted several proposals to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services outlining the program for safe importation of medications. But more than two years have passed since then, and the FDA has yet to authorize the program.
“It's been under review enough,” DeSantis said. “We’ve followed every regulation. We’ve met every requirement that we were asked to meet. The FDA stonewalled us on this effort. We are fighting the FDA in court.”