Biotech Group Believes Prescription Drug Ballot Measures Will Not Pass
The Biotechnology Industry Organization is "encouraging the industry to maintain a low profile" on competing prescription drug ballot measures on the Nov. 8 special election ballot, and an internal poll found that both measures likely will fail, the San Francisco Business Times reports (Levine, San Francisco Business Times, 10/24).
Proposition 78 would establish a voluntary prescription drug discount plan for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. The measure is supported by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Proposition 79, a measure supported by Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups, would require drug makers to participate in a prescription drug discount program or face exclusion from the Medi-Cal formulary in some cases. To qualify, state residents' annual incomes could not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level. State residents who spend more than 5% of their annual income on health care also would be eligible to participate in Proposition 79's drug discount program. In addition, people could sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices (California Healthline, 10/24).
BIO Director of State Government Relations Patrick Kelly did not provide details about the poll but said that "neither measure is polling with enough intensity to pass."
BIO's internal poll is in contrast to two other recently released polls that found voters support the two measures more than they oppose them.
According to the Business Times, the biotech industry -- which is "eager not to get embroiled in an ugly fight and worried about getting lumped in with the increasingly unpopular pharmaceutical industry" -- delayed endorsing a proposition until last month, when it officially took a public stance in support of Proposition 78.
Jim Greenword, CEO of BIO, said, "At the board of directors meeting in September, the board made it clear that we should be energized in this debate -- that means in opposition to 79 and in favor of 78."
The industry is concerned that Proposition 79 could inhibit its ability to raise venture financing because of a provision that would allow state residents to sue companies if they believe companies are inflating prices. However, the industry also is concerned that its economic development plans could be weakened if the public does not distinguish it from the pharmaceutical industry (San Francisco Business Times, 10/24).
The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday published an analysis of an advertisement sponsored by drug companies opposing Proposition 79. The television advertisement states that Proposition 79 "may be good for trial lawyers, but it's the wrong prescription for California."
According to a Bee analysis, the ad "tells voters nothing about what Proposition 79 would actually do, and it presents an incomplete picture of the legal changes that the measure would make." In addition, the ad "suggests that trial lawyers ... are backing Proposition 79," when "no group representing the legal profession has taken an official stance on the measure," the Bee reports.
The Bee analysis includes a transcript of the ad (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 10/25).
There is "realistic hope" that lawmakers "might take action" if Propositions 78 and 79 are defeated, a Modesto Bee editorial states, adding that neither proposition "is a healthy reform for the state, and both should be defeated" (Modesto Bee, 10/24).
Summaries of recent opinion pieces addressing the drug discount measures appear below.
- Virginia Field/Charolette Fox, Riverside Press-Enterprise: "Californians need more than a promise from drug companies to provide voluntary" prescription drug discounts, Field, a member of the board of directors for the League of Women Voters of Northwest Riverside County, and Fox, president of LWV of Southwest Riverside County, write in a Press-Enterprise opinion piece. Field and Fox recommend that state residents vote "no" on Proposition 78 and "yes" on Proposition 79 (Field/Fox, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 10/23).
- Mary Johnson, Riverside Press-Enterprise: Proposition 78 "is more likely to succeed in helping those who need it, namely seniors and the uninsured," Johnson, a health care facilitator at the University of California-Riverside, writes in a Press-Enterprise opinion piece (Johnson, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 10/23).
- Kevin Sharar, San Jose Mercury News: Proposition 78 "is a logical extension of the efforts under way ... to find solutions that will make a positive and lasting difference for patients," while Proposition 79 "threatens to withhold medicines from the most vulnerable Californians today -- and from patients everywhere tomorrow," Sharar, chair and CEO of Amgen, writes in a Mercury News opinion piece (Sharar, San Jose Mercury News, 10/24).
- Shirlee Zane, Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Proposition 79 "will initiate a price control on the industry that is desperately needed" and "will bite an industry which is robbing the people from fair and decent drug costs," Zane, CEO of the Council on Aging, writes in a Press Democrat opinion piece. Zane recommends that state residents vote "yes" on Proposition 79 (Zane, Santa Rose Press Democrat, 10/24).