Pharmaceutical Companies Launch First Television Advertisement Addressing Prescription Drug Measures
A coalition of pharmaceutical companies on Monday launched a 30-second statewide television ad in support of Proposition 78 on the Nov. 8 special election ballot, the Sacramento Bee reports. The ad was the "first formal salvo" in a campaign "pitting consumer groups and unions against drug companies," the Bee reports (Bluth, Sacramento Bee, 8/16).
Proposition 78 would establish a voluntary prescription drug discount program 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.
Also on the Nov. 8 ballot is Proposition 79, which would establish a mandatory prescription drug discount program. The measure would require pharmaceutical companies to provide discounts to state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level. Pharmaceutical companies would have to participate in the program or face exclusion from the Medi-Cal formulary in some cases (California Healthline, 8/2). Under Proposition 79, people could sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (Elias, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/16).
Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups support the measure (California Healthline, 8/2).
The pharmaceutical companies' ad states that Proposition 78 would "provid[e] direct discounts on prescription medicine -- and leav[e] medical decisions to doctors." The ad states that Proposition 79, in contrast, would "creat[e] a big new government program that lets bureaucrats decide what medications are covered" (Sacramento Bee, 8/16).
Pharmaceutical companies have raised more than $72 million for their campaign. A coalition of unions and consumer health groups has raised about $10 million to support the Proposition 79 campaign (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/16).
Frank Schubert, campaign manager for the drug companies' campaign, said, "If you're interested in providing prescription medication to people who need it, then you'll vote for Proposition 78. If you're interested in playing politics with the unions, then you'll be behind Proposition 79."
Proponents of Proposition 78 also said that federal officials would not approve Proposition 79.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said Proposition 79 "covers twice as many people, offers deeper discounts and is enforceable." Wright added that the pharmaceutical industry has raised a record amount of money for the campaign because it does not want Proposition 79 to be approved (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/16).
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California, said the pharmaceutical firms' ad was "effective," adding, "It is early enough that nobody knows what's really in the details and (the message) is going to linger for a lot of people" (Sacramento Bee, 8/16).
KCET's "Life and Times" on Wednesday is scheduled to include a report on the media battle between supporters of Proposition 78 and advocates for Proposition 79 (Louie, "Life and Times," KCET, 8/17). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.