In Florida, Drug Re-Importation From Canada Finds New Champions, Old Snags

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he intends to bring down skyrocketing drug prices by leaning on an existing federal law that could enable the state to import prescription meds wholesale from Canada, where they’re much cheaper. He’s citing direct support from President Donald Trump, whose administration would have to approve the endeavor.

“He not only supports this, he is enthusiastic,” DeSantis said at a news conference northwest of Orlando.

But it’s not clear Florida’s idea has actually gotten that level of commitment.

The White House would not directly answer whether it supports letting states import prescription drugs from Canada and would not say whether it has blessed this proposal.

Instead, said spokesman Judd Deere, the president has asked his administration to “learn more details” about Florida’s drug-importation plan and “looks forward to educating Governor DeSantis on the many policy options the Trump administration has proposed to reduce costly drug prices for American families.” (Those policy options, according to a White House blueprint released last year, don’t include importation.)

“President Trump is always eager to discuss ways to lower drug prices for the American people,” Deere said.

Still, Florida is joining the growing ranks of states that, squeezed by climbing drug prices, are eyeing the Canadian fix. This idea isn’t new: Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s left-leaning independent senator, is among a number of longtime champions in Congress.

Legislation has been advanced this year in about a dozen states that would advance wholesale drug importation programs and a bill was introduced in Florida on the same day DeSantis outlined his support.

Vermont, Sanders’ home state, where a measure became law last year, leads the pack. But the state has not yet sought necessary federal approval.

And how much would these programs help anyway? While statehouses may be abuzz, in Washington, national politics impedes feasibility. And skeptics question how much relief these initiatives could actually provide.

“I don’t think large-scale importation — given both the size of the United States and the potential for retaliation [by the industry] — is likely to save as much as might be projected,” said Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who tracks drug-pricing laws.

Said Ameet Sarpatwari, a lawyer and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, “Something like importation could help on the margins in the short term, but it needs to be coupled with some sort of strategy to be sure there is efficient supply in the market.”

In order to pursue this approach, states are leaning on a provision in a 2003 law that empowers the Department of Health and Human Services to approve state programs to import medications from Canada, as long as the state can show the practice is safe and saves money.

Once they gain this go-ahead, states would develop wholesale importation programs and then sell the drugs they get from up north to local pharmacies and hospitals, theoretically netting savings.

But HHS has never approved such a move. Last year, HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters that importation proposals constituted a “gimmick” rather than any meaningful drug-pricing reform. Vermont plans to formally submit its importation proposal this summer. So far, HHS has been silent on that project.

Last June, though, Azar directed the Food and Drug Administration to establish a working group to study how drug re-importation could help address price hikes and supply disruptions.

DeSantis on Friday acknowledged that he doesn’t yet have the backing of federal agencies needed to make his plan go forward.

The guarantee of drug safety is also a challenge. HHS secretaries from both Republican and Democratic administrations have argued over the years that they could not find a process that meets this standard — though many pharmaceutical policy experts dispute this argument. Sarpatwari called it “a red herring.”

Policy researchers question whether these proposals would net substantial savings — or even survive the backlash from the powerful pharmaceutical industry.

“If you think about the practicalities of trying to feed a large section of the U.S. market from Canada, it doesn’t make much sense,” argued Michael Law, a pharmaceutical policy expert and associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Health Services and Policy Research. “There are too many steps along the way where people will shut it down.”

Pharmaceutical companies supplying Canadian wholesalers will quickly notice, he said, if those entities are buying lots more drugs and then selling them back to Americans. And they would cut off supplies pretty quickly.

That’s especially true, Law added, for a state as big as Florida, whose population of 20 million people is not that far from rivaling Canada’s 37 million.

Importation would also face a formidable opponent from the Canadian government, both he and Sachs said. If Canadian prices are used to bring down American prices, drugmakers have a reason to just charge more up north.

Vermont estimated potential savings of between $ 1 million and $ 5 million. Those figures don’t account for the costs of setting up the program.

Even with those issues, though, there’s active interest in the idea — just ask DeSantis’ own constituents. A number of employers and local governments in Florida have been buying drugs from Canada for years. Among them: the Pasco County school district near Tampa.

“The program is working well, and we’ve had no issues or complaints,” said Patricia Howard, an employee benefits official with the school system.

In Florida, as around the country, some businesses also already help consumers purchase drugs from overseas, and they say they see sizable savings.

Tim Booth, owner of Canadian Meds in Lady Lake, Fla., said his customers get prescriptions filled from pharmacies in Canada, Australia, Britain and India. “We get many doctor referrals who fax us prescriptions for their patients,” he said.

Canadian Meds, which is located about eight miles from where DeSantis made his prescription drug announcement, is one of about 20 such storefront businesses across Florida that claim thousands of customers each year. These businesses, which technically operate outside the law, started in 2003 and continue with little pushback from regulators.

“Everybody knows drug prices are too high, so anything they can do is good for the American public,” Booth said.

But the benefits Booth’s customers see may not translate to a statewide program, considering the differences between thousands of customers versus a statewide program. Plus, the federal law that DeSantis’ plan would use authorizes importation only from Canada — not Australia, Britain or India.

That said, proposals like these have political implications, both in states, whose budgets are directly squeezed by climbing drug prices, and in Washington, where drug pricing is one area where congressional activity seems more likely.

“This goes along with a broader thinking that’s going on about how to lower drug prices in the United States,” Law said. “Despite the fact that this might not work — it’s not too long before someone figures out something that would.”

Kaiser Health News


This Olympic Champion’s Case Could Change Sports’ Gender Rules Forever

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) — The longtime standoff between Olympic champion Caster Semenya and track and field’s governing body over issues of gender, hormones and performance in sports reached a pivotal phase on Monday as a key tribunal began hosting a planned five-day hearing in a case that could have massive repercussions throughout sports.

The two-time 800-meter gold medalist from South Africa came and went from the offices of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday without addressing reporters after a marathon opening session, but her legal team and IAAF lawyers were still jockeying for position in the court of public opinion.

Both sides acknowledged that the ruling in the case — which isn’t expected until late March — could have huge implications, notably over where to draw the line between the genders and how to ensure fairness in top-tier competition.

Semenya’s lawyers issued a statement during the 10-hour session criticizing the IAAF’s release of a list of names of five experts that they planned to put forward to make their case. Her legal team said that maneuver violated the spirit of confidentiality over the proceedings “in an effort to influence public opinion.”

Her team of four lawyers said that it had received the three-judge panel’s OK to release the names of its own experts on Tuesday.

Insisting on the need for fairness, the IAAF defended “eligibility standards that ensure that athletes who identify as female but have testes, and testosterone levels in the male range, at least drop their testosterone levels into the female range in order to compete at the elite level in the female classification.”

The IAAF has proposed eligibility rules for athletes with hyperandrogenism, a medical condition in which women may have excessive levels of male hormones such as testosterone. Semenya wants to overturn those rules.

The scheduled five-day appeal case is among the longest ever heard by the sports court. CAS secretary-general Mathieu Reeb expressed hope for a decision by the three-judge panel by the end of March.

Neither of the delegations spoke on the way out of Monday’s proceedings.

“The core value for the IAAF is the empowerment of girls and women through athletics,” IAAF president Sebastian Coe said as the day began. “The regulations that we are introducing are there to protect the sanctity of fair and open competition.”

A colleague then pulled Coe away from reporters and said he wouldn’t say more.

The IAAF wants to require women with naturally elevated testosterone to lower their levels by medication before being allowed to compete in world-class races from 400 meters to one mile.

Reeb said the case was “unusual and unprecedented” and said the decision “will be important.”

South African lawyer Norman Arendse, whose is helping present the case for Semenya, called it “a highly confidential process.”

Sports – TIME


President Trump Feeds College Football National Champions ‘Hamberders’ and Twitter Can’t Stomach It

The Clemson University football team was invited to the White House Monday to celebrate their College Football National Championship win in a scene that was also a feast for social media users.

The South Carolina team, which defeated the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide 44-16 on Jan. 7, was offered a candelabra-lit spread of takeout food from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Domino’s.

In a since-deleted tweet, the president boasted that the group was served 1,000 “hamberders” at the event that he paid for himself – a spelling error that immediately prompted online snickers. Meanwhile, aides said there were closer to 300 burgers at the event.

The President reportedly paid for the food himself because many of the White House staff are furloughed due to the partial government shutdown, Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told CNN in a statement.

Trump, who has claimed to be a big fan of fast food himself, told reporters before the event, “We have some very large people that like eating. So I think we’re going to have a little fun.”

Later, Twitter users had more than a little fun with the “hamberders” typo.

Some pointed out that nothing kept the fast food warm as it sat on the tables. While Trump’s critics implied that the junk food was a good metaphor for the President himself.

“This is an incredible self-own for someone who aims to be worth $ 10 billion,” wrote user Judd Legum.

The meal also caught the attention of former NFL running back Reggie Bush, who tweeted that the dinner was “disrespectful on so many levels.”

In a video of the event, the players seem to be enjoying the food. One player loudly says that the food is “awesome.”

“I thought it was a joke,” he adds.

Sports – TIME


Hosting ‘America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ Is A Game-Changer For Terry Crews | PeopleTV


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‘FIFA 19’: Watch Two Champions Go Head-to-Head for Ultimate Bragging Rights

Former Smosh Games streamer Lasercorn is a champion-level gamer who entertains hundreds of thousands of fans on his YouTube channel. Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer leveraged a star-making turn on So You Think You Can Dance into a professional dance career. Now these two champions in their respective fields are going head-to-head in FIFA 19 to determine who’s the ultimate champion on the pitch.

They’re trying out one of the new Kick Off modes, Survival, which removes a player from a team whenever that team scores a goal. Watch the video above to see who comes out on top!

Champions Rise

Lasercorn and Cyrus also took time to chat about their origin stories — how they got started doing what they love and how they rose to the tops of the games. Watch the video above to find out.

Anatomy of a Champion

Once you make it to the top of your field, how do you stay on top? Lasercorn and Cyrus break down their current day-to-day routines to find out how to stay a champion-caliber performer. Watch the video above for details.

The post ‘FIFA 19’: Watch Two Champions Go Head-to-Head for Ultimate Bragging Rights appeared first on FANDOM.



Sloane Stephens comes out on top in battle of last two US Open champions

SINGAPORE — In a match between the last two U.S. Open champions, Sloane Stephens came out on top.

The 2017 champion beat Naomi Osaka 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 Monday at the WTA Finals, the season-ending tournament for the top eight players in the world.

Both players are making their debut appearances at the…

Sports – New York Daily News