Gov. DeSantis at White House to watch President Trump sign drug prices order

Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump at the White House in April 2020, discussing coronavirus and reopening Florida. Credit: Screenshot, ABC 25 WPBF.

Update: President Trump signed an executive order Friday authorizing importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where they’re much cheaper than in the United States. The program — if it works — would fulfill one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top policy priorities.

The president signed three additional orders during a White House ceremony that he said would lower the price of insulin offered through federal community health centers; crack down on pharmacy benefits managers, or drug middlemen; and link U.S. drug prices to the lowest rates paid by other countries.

The president offered few details and his office has yet to release drafts of the orders.

He did announce plans for a meeting with pharmaceutical executives on Tuesday to discuss lowering drug prices.

As for the drug import plan, there’s no guarantee it will work. The Canadian government, which pays less for drugs because it negotiates prices with the pharmaceutical industry, is on record against allowing its market to be siphoned into the United States.

The Florida Legislature approved the program during DeSantis’ first year in office, taking advantage of a federal law allowing such imports.

“We knew that we had your support. We knew that this day would eventually come. And I think the fact that we’re standing here today, obviously, in Florida we did some groundwork but really is a result of presidential leadership,” DeSantis, on hand for the occasion, told the president.

House Speaker Jose Oliva also promoted the plan and was on hand for the signing ceremony. Congressman Matt Gaetz of Pensacola was also there.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis was due in Washington, D.C., Friday afternoon to watch President Donald Trump sign an executive order controlling pharmaceutical prices and meet with the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Drug prices have been a major priority for Florida’s Republican governor, who has been working with the Trump administration on a plan to import pharmaceuticals from Canada, where prices tend to run lower. The Canadian government reportedly is dubious about the prospect.

The trip comes the day after Trump cancelled the GOP’s attempt to stage elements of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville.

Local officials there scrambled to organize the convention after officials in North Carolina balked at allowing a big, crowded gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic. DeSantis, a Trump ally, also pressed to bring the party to Florida.

Ultimately, Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams concluded it was impossible to organize security in time for the convention.

Trump said delegates will convene in Charlotte to vote on his renomination but that other events would be held via tele-events and online.

Press aides released the schedule at 11:20 a.m. Eastern Time — a departure from precedent perhaps related to the transition from former communications director Helen Aguirre Ferré to Fred Piccolo. In the past, the daily schedule tended to arrive well into the evening.

Ferré is the new executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. Piccolo is a former spokesman for the Florida House leadership slated to take over Ferré’s old job on Monday.

The press office in Tallahassee gave no advance notice to reporters when DeSantis held a big event with the president in April, though Ferré said the event appeared in President Trump’s schedule.

Today’s White House event is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

The Phoenix has written earlier about the governor’s administrative schedule reaching reporters’ hands well after most of the meetings and events it documents are over and done with.

It matters that the public knows what its governors are up to. So much so that Florida governors’ daily administrative schedules are official public records they are obliged to share with the press and public.