British Columbia’s health minister says potential exports of Canadian drugs to U.S. states would be a devastating blow — but he doesn’t believe it will come to that.
In an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live, Adrian Dix said a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow Florida to import millions of dollars worth of prescription drugs from Canada is a major threat, risking shortages in this country.
“This is effectively a raid on Canada’s drug supply,” he told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
On Friday, the FDA announced it was approving a request by Florida to be allowed to purchase Canadian drugs, as part of a bid to save up to $150 million US per yea.”
“After years of federal bureaucrats dragging their feet, Florida will now be able to import low-cost, life-saving prescription drugs,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “It’s about time that the FDA put patients over politics and the interests of Floridians over Big Pharma.”
Pharmaceutical companies oppose the move, with the head of one of the largest American lobby groups calling the idea “reckless.” The industry in Canada had a similar reaction.
“Historically, we’ve had some pretty devastating drug shortages in Canada. And so the idea that they could import them from us is not really feasible,” said Joelle Walker, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Pharmacists Association.
“I’m skeptical that it will actually come to fruition in its current form, but we want to make sure that we’re diligent about reviewing it and making sure that we’re not missing something.”
It’s the second time in recent years that a move south of the border to divert drugs from this country has presented a threat to the Canadian market. In 2019, then-president Donald Trump supported a plan to allow bulk imports of drugs, but Canada moved to halt exports.
Ottawa has the tools to stop exports, Dix says
“It would be a significant issue if this were allowed to happen, but I don’t think it will,” Dix said. He cited the powers of the federal government and the opposition of pharmaceutical companies as key reasons why the proposal may not get off the ground.
“I think this is more about very strange U.S. politics than it is about a serious proposal that would go forward.”
The health minister said he still expects the federal government to step up now to ensure the Canadian drug supply is protected.
“The federal government has the power to address this … this would clearly cause a drug shortage,” Dix said.
In a statement on Friday, federal Health Minister Mark Holland said the government would act to ensure Canadians did not face shortages.
“Canadians can be confident that our government will continue to take all necessary measures to protect the drug supply in Canada,” he said.
Health Canada said in a statement on Friday that provisions under existing regulations prohibit sales outside of Canada “if that sale could cause, or worsen, a drug shortage in Canada.”
Dix said while that language is reassuring, the B.C. government would be following up to make sure Canadians were protected.
He noted that his province had acted in a similar case: the export of the diabetes medication Ozempic, now commonly used off-label as a weight-loss drug. Updated regulations reduced those exports almost entirely, he said.
“In this case, this is at a different scale altogether,” Dix said.