(The Center Square) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled a new legislative proposal today that he says would lower drug prices and rein in unchecked pharmacy benefit managers to drive transparency among prescription drug prices influenced by pharmaceutical companies.

DeSantis’ proposal revealed at a news conference in the Villages community would prohibit pharmacy benefit managers from forcing consumers to use a mail-order pharmacy, but allow them to opt-in to this service. PBMs would also be prevented from forcing customers to use a narrow network of affiliated pharmacies. The proposal would also preserve the ability for a patient to have in-person relationship with a pharmacist in their own community.

For small businesses, the proposal would protect them against surprise bills and clawbacks from PBMs after prescriptions are filled. It would also prohibit spread pricing where a PBM charges a customer more for a prescription than it costs and then pockets the difference.

Pharmacy benefit managers would have to disclose any affiliated pharmacies or companies and also inform consumers of any complaints or settlement agreements they’ve reached prior to operating in Florida. PBMs would also be subject to enforcement action by the Office of Insurance Regulation if they violate state law.

Drug manufacturers would also be required to be transparent when it comes to pricing and be required to submit an annual report that outlined and justified any cost increases over the past year.

“So, we have worked hard to do whatever we can, to provide relief from the cost of prescription drugs,” DeSantis said.

More than two years ago, Florida submitted its Canadian Drug Importation Program to the federal government for approval. State officials say the program could save Floridians $150 million annually, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve it.

The state of Florida filed a lawsuit on Aug. 31 in U.S. District Court in Tampa seeking expedited FDA review of the Florida proposal. DeSantis said the FDA is stonewalling the program

The governor noted that the “medical industrial complex” in the United States was imposing high costs on American consumers that are not imposed on consumers in other countries.

The governor stated that the FDA was citing safety concerns about prescription drugs coming from Canada, and in doing so, was holding up the process of getting the program running.

“This has been ready to go, literally all they have to do is sign on the dotted line, and basically what they’re saying is, ‘well, you know, if you buy the same drug in Canada, we’re really concerned about safety and all this other stuff,'” DeSantis said.

DeSantis continued by pointing out that the FDA were not as concerned about safety when authorizing the COVID-19 vaccines without proper data.

“You know the FDA wasn’t as concerned and isn’t as concerned about safety when they’re authorizing mRNA shots for six-month-old babies.” DeSantis said. “They didn’t have data to support that, and they did it and they’ve authorized a lot of things that don’t have, that don’t have a lot of data.”

DeSantis added that his proposal would be straightforward.

“All you would do here, is you’d literally get it in, it’s the same drug. We have a warehouse in Polk County, they repackage it, or relabel it for American labels, do all that and it’s ready to go,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said the proposal would save tens of millions of dollars, perhaps even hundreds of millions of dollars, but added that the most important thing was that American consumers got a fair deal and were treated equitably.

“At the end of the day, what the FDA is doing is they’re running interference for the pharmaceutical companies and it’s what they’ve done, we’ve seen it honestly, over the last few years, with very stark relief, so we’re gonna stay on that,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis reiterated that it is time for Florida to take action to protect consumers and small businesses.

“These reforms will enhance transparency and reduce the influence of pharmacy middlemen, which will help consumers as well as our small pharmacies. I look forward to these reforms becoming law,” DeSantis said.

The State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who was also in attendance, said that Americans are being fleeced on prescription drug prices, which 9 out of 10 Floridians over the age of 65 are currently taking.

“The American people have been led to believe that drug costs are high so that pharmaceutical companies can continue to perform research,” Ladapo said. “But this claim ignores the fact that pharmaceutical research and innovation tends to begin in universities, mostly through NIH funding.

“That’s our tax dollars. The American people deserve affordable prescriptions, not unnecessary mark-ups that continue to line the pockets of Big Pharma.”

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