Trump directs Azar to work on Florida drug import plan

  • 07-May-2019
  • Trump directs Azar to work on Florida drug import plan

President Donald Trump on Monday directed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to work with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on the state’s drug import plan, according to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

Trump and Azar spoke at an Oval Office meeting — attended by DeSantis — that lasted for about 45 minutes Monday afternoon, said Gaetz, who also was at the gathering.

Gaetz said he believed that the meeting was at DeSantis’ request. He said he and the governor have privately discussed the import plan multiple times with the president.

“We’re like the Blues Brothers of drug importation,” Gaetz, a DeSantis adviser, said Monday night. “We’re on a mission from God.”

Gaetz said the meeting set the stage for Azar’s department to review Florida’s plan and ultimately approve it.

A bill passed by the state Legislature would give Florida until 2020 to submit a plan for federal approval. But Gaetz said Trump wanted to see the program get off the ground sooner.

“He said for the governor to be prompt in production of the plan, and for the secretary to be prompt in review of the plan,” Gaetz said. The conversation wasn’t connected to talk of Trump’s reelection campaign, he said.

“I saw a president who was chomping at the bit for this solution to lower drug prices,” Gaetz said.

At the meeting were several members of Azar's staff, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought.

DeSantis has touted Trump’s support for his drug import plan without public confirmation from the president. Gaetz’s depiction of Monday’s meeting suggests the president is willing to overcome objections to the program from his advisers, including Azar.

Gaetz said Azar, at Monday’s meeting, listed several concerns about the program, including the possibility that manufacturers might limit prescription drug supplies if they don’t make enough money. Azar questioned how to ensure the safety of source materials.

Trump said that instead of limiting supply, drug companies will lower prices, Gaetz said. The governor and Azar would together find a way to ensure the safety of imported drugs, Gaetz said.

The state’s drug import program goes into effect July 1. It establishes a Canadian import program for state health departments, which Gaetz said was the focus of Monday’s meeting, as well as an international import program for the commercial market.

The measure was fiercely fought by drug companies and national lobbying groups, including the drug trade association PhRMA as well as conservative influencers such as Grover Norquist.

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