Opinion: A Lone Star Blueprint for Reducing Medication Costs

Medication and money | Image by OsakaWayne Studios/Getty Images

After years of delays, the FDA recently approved Florida’s request to import certain drugs from Canada. This milestone marks the first instance of a state being authorized to purchase lower-cost medications, in bulk, from abroad. Now, it is critical that Governor Greg Abbott and Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn push the FDA to approve Texas’ near-identical application while enacting other cost-saving measures to keep residents of this state healthy and safe.

The cost of drugs in America is alarmingly high; they are over 2.5 times the cost of those in 32 other countries. This has left Texans — who have spent more on prescription drugs than residents of any other state since 2019 — struggling with the burden of high medication costs.

Canada’s drugs are 25 to 80 percent cheaper than the same ones found in the United States for one simple reason: it is what our northern neighbors demand. Their politicians impose price controls on just how high drug manufacturers can sell these life-saving products. The problem for Americans is that the drug manufacturers then inflate the costs of those same products in the U.S. to make up for the pricing difference.

For years, lawmakers have whined about this system not being fair. They have complained that the U.S. is effectively subsidizing prescription drugs for the rest of the world when many cash-strapped mothers and fathers find themselves rationing prescriptions for their children here at home. Now, however, they have adopted a new strategy of the “if you can’t beat them, join them” variety, which is beginning to yield serious results for the American people.

First, President Biden instituted price caps of his own. This move will level the playing field, helping to ensure that other countries stop receiving windfall drug deals off American families’ backs.

Then, this past September, the Texas legislature passed a law allowing our great state to seek FDA approval to import these cheaper drugs from other countries. Since then, the state has found itself sitting in a “wait and see” holding pattern, with the FDA reviewing its application. However, now that the agency just approved Florida’s drug importation application, it is time for state leadership officials to pressure the FDA to speed up the process.

It might take more than just a little nudge. Florida had to sue the agency twice to get it to take its application seriously. But the wait will, without question, be worth it as, once successful, it will lead to thousands of instate families receiving the accessible and affordable care they need.

Once the state gets fast-tracked for drug importation, it should begin making greater use of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to realize the full benefits of these cheaper drugs. Acting as intermediaries between insurers and pharmacies, PBMs play a pivotal role in lowering drug prices through negotiating with manufacturers and ensuring health plans cover more medications. The involvement of PBMs in this process could revolutionize the way prescription drugs are priced and distributed, ensuring that the new imported drugs are covered by Texans’ insurance and that the cost savings realized from using these cheaper medications get passed on to consumers.

As Texas embarks on this ambitious path, it sends a powerful message to the rest of the country: bold steps and innovative solutions are necessary to tackle the healthcare affordability crisis. The Lone Star State’s initiative could very well pave the way for national reforms, challenging other states to follow suit and demand better for their residents.

The journey ahead will require persistence, collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to the well-being of all Texans. Yet, with the collective efforts of our legislators, healthcare professionals, and the community at large, Texas is well on its way to establishing a healthcare model that prioritizes affordability, accessibility, and the health of its residents above all else.

Laura Moore is a Texas family nurse practitioner.

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