Pharmaceutical Industry Backing Could Weaken Support for Proposition 78
The pharmaceutical industry, which is the primary supporter of the Proposition 78 campaign, also is the campaign's "biggest liability," the Los Angeles Times reports (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
Proposition 78, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week endorsed, 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.
It is in competition with Proposition 79, a measure supported by Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups that 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. Under Proposition 79, people could sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices (California Healthline 9/29).
A Harris Interactive poll in 1997 found that public approval of drug companies was 79%, but seven years later it had fallen to 44%. The Times reports that primary reasons for the change are "skyrocketing" drug costs and an increase in industry profits.
Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College, said, "Public opinion has a short list of bad guys, and the drug companies are on it." He added, "That can be hurtful to Proposition 78" (Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
The Los Angeles Times on Friday also published a comparison of Propositions 78 and 79, including estimates from Healthvote.org, an informational Web site sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation, that Proposition 78 would provide prescription drug discounts for four to six million people, while Proposition 79 would provide discounts for eight to 10 million people (Girion , Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
Pharmaceutical companies have raised $80 million in support of Proposition 78 and in opposition to Proposition 79, and they have spent nearly $50 million so far, primarily on television advertising, the Contra Costa Times reports.
By comparison, the Proposition 79 campaign has received contributions of $130,000 and has spent $180,000 (Folmar/Kurtzman, Contra Costa Times, 9/30).
Meanwhile, supporters of Proposition 73, which would amend the state constitution to require providers to notify a parent or guardian of an unmarried minor seeking an abortion, have raised $1.1 million, compared with $1.5 million raised by its opponents (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 9/30).
Additional information on propositions 73, 78 and 79 is available online.