Home Medizin Trump-Beamter, der Drogen aus Kanada genehmigt hat, leitet Unternehmen hinter Floridas Importplan

Trump-Beamter, der Drogen aus Kanada genehmigt hat, leitet Unternehmen hinter Floridas Importplan

von NFI Redaktion

The unprecedented approval from the Food and Drug Administration for Florida’s plan to import drugs from Canada was made possible after Alex Azar, as Health and Human Services Secretary of the Trump administration, certified that the transportation of drugs across the border was safe.

Azar made this historic declaration in September 2020, just two months before his boss, former President Donald Trump, lost re-election.

Now, Azar is involved in enabling the import. He is the chairman of LifeScience Logistics, a Dallas-based company that Florida is paying up to $39 million to assist in its Canadian drug importation program, not including drug costs.

Officials from LifeScience confirmed Azar’s position but did not respond to questions about how much he earns or if he is involved in the work in Florida. Azar did not respond to messages left for him at his employers or to a personal email address.

The revolving door between public and private employment is well documented. It is common for high-ranking US officials from both parties to leave public service for often much better-paying jobs or board positions at companies in the industries they once regulated.

According to a study by researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities published in the Journal of Politics in 2019, looking at 84 cabinet members who served from 1992 to 2014, around 57% went on to join corporate boards after leaving their government positions.

„In general, we advocate that cabinet secretaries don’t go into industries they once regulated because the potential for conflicts of interest is unavoidable,“ said Robert Weissman, president of public interest watchdog Public Citizen.

He described Azar’s situation as atypical, as his support for drug importation was rejected by the pharmaceutical industry, with which Azar had previously been employed. Drug manufacturers argued that the policy exposed patients to the risk of consuming counterfeit drugs. Azar joined LifeScience’s board in January 2022, a year after Trump left office and about a year after Florida signed a contract with LifeScience.

Katie Hernandez, a spokesperson for LifeScience Logistics, stated that the company, which manages nearly 6 million square feet of warehouse space in 11 states, signed its contract with Florida before Azar joined the board.

Ivana Katic, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, said that Azar’s position at LifeScience „may appear as a conflict of interest“ given that his political decision as HHS secretary later benefited him professionally.

Azar was deputy secretary at HHS during the George W. Bush administration before joining pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company as a top executive in 2007, where he remained until just months before joining the Trump administration.

Weissman, who supports drug importation, said he doubts Azar had any personal gain in mind before making his decision. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had pushed Trump to approve importation from Canada, and the former president said he supported importation before Azar confirmed it was safe.

Canadian drug importation has been the subject of decades-long debates. While the US does not regulate most drug prices, Canada does, generally leading to lower prices across the border.

In 2018, Azar referred to importation as a „gimmick“ due to Canada’s pharmaceutical market not being large enough to meet US demand. In fact, the Canadian government has repeatedly warned the US against imports and promised to block any plan that would risk causing a shortage in Canada.

„Health Canada has put in place regulations ‚to prevent certain drugs destined for the Canadian market from being sold for consumption outside of Canada, if that sale could cause or worsen a drug shortage in Canada,“ regulating drug safety, said in a statement from January 8, after the FDA approved Florida’s plan.

According to its contract with Florida, LifeScience Logistics must purchase drugs from Canadian suppliers, contract with a lab to verify their authenticity, store the drugs, and distribute them to state agencies. LifeScience is building a 100,000-square-foot facility in Lakeland, Florida, for storing drugs imported from Canada.

President Joe Biden supported drug importation during his 2020 campaign, but after the election, his administration made slow progress in advancing the process. Colorado has a pending importation application with the FDA, while several other states have enacted laws allowing importation. DeSantis accused the Biden administration of moving slowly on a decision and his government filed a lawsuit over FDA’s delay.

Florida’s import plan is expected to save the state up to $180 million in the program’s first year. The program wouldn’t directly help consumers but is aimed at helping state agencies, including prisons, the health department, and the Medicaid program, to obtain more affordable drugs for HIV and AIDS, diabetes, and other conditions.

Florida’s plan still faces many hurdles. In addition to Canada’s hesitancy to participate in US import programs, some drug manufacturers have agreements with Canadian wholesalers that prevent them from exporting drugs, and the FDA’s decision is likely to be legally challenged by drug manufacturers.

The largest pharmaceutical industry lobby group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), previously sued to stop Azar’s import decision. Florida is expected to file a lawsuit to block the program as well.

A PhRMA spokesperson declined to comment on Azar’s role.

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org, a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health topics and is one of the core operating programs at KFF – the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism.

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