Initiative To Mandate Drug Discounts Begins Circulation; California Rx Measure Still Under Review
Health Access on Monday began circulating a ballot initiative that would call on the state to leverage Medi-Cal's bulk purchasing power to "force drug manufacturers to offer discounts" to state residents, the Ventura County Star reports.
The initiative is the "first of what could become a long list of ballot initiatives designed to challenge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)," who is expected to soon call for a special election in November, the Star reports. Schwarzenegger has proposed a competing initiative, called California Rx, that the drug industry has said it will seek to place on the ballot. The governor's program would rely on voluntary discounts from drug firms.
As of Monday, a total of 40 initiatives were in circulation and 39 others, including the California Rx measure, were under review by the attorney general.
The Health Access initiative, supported by a coalition of union and consumer groups called Alliance for a Better California, is modeled after a Maine program that so far has yielded savings of 20% to 30% for consumers, according to Health Access Executive Director Anthony Wright. Wright also noted that the Maine program late last year survived a federal appeals court challenge.
Jose Hermocillo -- a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America California Initiative Fund, which so far has raised more than $7 million in support of the California Rx initiative -- said Health Access' proposal would not deliver what it promises because the notion of "government-mandated price controls" on drugs "would not be able to overcome significant legal hurdles."
Jim Farrell, a spokesperson for ABC, said the governor's decision to hold a special election could "blow up badly on him" if Health Access' measure and other initiatives not backed by the state were approved (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 3/15).