The law on Prescription Drug Importation Programs, enacted in 2019, facilitates patients’ access to medications through their import from Canada and other countries into Florida. The introduction of this legislation is highly relevant since high prices for prescription drugs have been an urgent concern for U.S. society over decades (Florida’s Canadian prescription drug, 2019). The Prescription Drug Importation Programs have a significant impact on the healthcare sector in Florida, bringing both positive and negative implications for its stakeholders. Thus, careful consideration of the law’s effects is essential.
To begin with, it is necessary to observe that this legislation embraces two approaches, namely, the Canadian and the International drug programs. More specifically, the Canadian program will provide drugs for Medicaid participants, whereas the second program will target “the broader state population” (Sexton, 2019, para. 9). The programs cover a wide range of prescription drugs, including insulin, infused, and intravenously injected agents, controlled substances, and inhaled anesthetics (Florida’s Canadian prescription drug, 2019). Apart from enabling import as such, the legislation also provides the design of the importation process, establishing eligibility criteria, safety standards, distribution requirements, as well as penalties for their violations.
The enactment of this law is highly relevant since “pharmaceutical prices in the U.S. are rising at an astronomical rate” (Florida’s Canadian prescription drug, 2019, p. 3). Indeed, the U.S. population pays 30%-190% more for prescription drugs as compared to other high-income countries (Florida’s Canadian prescription drug, 2019). By contrast, the prices for prescription drugs in Canada, for instance, are significantly lower. This is primarily because the Canadian government applies specific regulatory mechanisms to lower these costs, as distinct from the U.S. Therefore, the law on Prescription Drug Importation Programs aims to reduce the prices for medications by establishing an importing process into Florida from countries with lower prices.
As one can observe, reduced drug costs are an undeniable benefit of the Prescription Drug Importation Programs. Consequently, the law’s impact on patients is evident. Due to this legislation, healthcare consumers acquire access to medications, which they previously could not afford. This will reduce morbidity, especially in terms of chronic diseases, and increase the rates of survival and longevity. Moreover, the law can potentially result in a significant amount of cost savings on a large scale, which will be beneficial for the economy. Hence, the saved money and overall improved health status will enhance patients’ quality of life.
However, one must keep in mind that the introduction of this legislation implies a range of challenges. For example, the importation process inevitably involves a certain degree of hazard for American patients. In other words, it is not always possible to verify and “guarantee the safety of drugs that come into the country from outside the United States” (Trump’s drug importation plan, 2019, para. 16). As a result, the Prescription Drug Importation Programs can potentially involve such adverse effects as the use of unverified medications and counterfeit manufacturing, which can have a detrimental impact on the public health and patients’ quality of life.
Another weakness of this law is an obvious lack of administrative background in healthcare facilities to run the importation process safely and effectively. For instance, the implementation of Prescription Drug Importation Programs requires the development of a checks-and-balances system, aimed at safeguarding the work of healthcare professionals, and preventing possible misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or confused dosage. That is to say, the U.S. already has a well-established gold-standard supply chain for the effective delivery of prescription drugs, whereas the new legislation requires the development and validation of its quality assurance framework.
The implementation of the law under consideration also involves specific adjustments in the providers’ activity. Indeed, it influences the entire supply chain, since innovative approaches are necessary “for enhanced tracing and verification of prescription drugs in the U.S” (Florida’s Canadian prescription drug, 2019, p. 19). In particular, electronic recording technologies are of paramount importance to track and trace drugs “as they travel through the supply chain” (Florida’s Canadian prescription drug, 2019, p. 20). As a result, all stakeholders, including both suppliers and importers, need to pilot the use of these new techniques. In other words, the drug provision process undergoes significant modifications aimed at ensuring the safety of imported drugs.
This legislation naturally affects the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Indeed, the pharmaceutical companies have met this law with severe criticism and a “fierce opposition” (Trump’s drug importation plan, 2019, para. 3). Such a reaction is quite understandable since the new law directly impairs their profit from selling prescription drugs. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that the Prescription Drug Importation Programs primarily address the state entities, whereas they do not “prevent importation from private wholesalers and pharmacies” (Florida’s Canadian prescription drug, 2019, p. 4). The impact of the Prescription Drug Importation Programs on the pharmaceutical industry in Canada also raises concerns, since the increased importation may cause drug shortages, thus undermining Canadian public health. As one can observe, all these potential challenges require close attention and immediate actions, when needed.
Hence, the law on Prescription Drug Importation Programs addresses an urgent issue of the U.S. and provides access to medications, which were previously unaffordable for some social groups. However, the effective implementation of this legislation requires careful steps to ensure the safety of imported drugs and prevent the development of adverse effects. Thus, an elaborate system of checks and balances, as well as a reliable tracing and tracking technology, is necessary to overcome the potential weaknesses of this law and render it maximally beneficial for patients.
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