PhRMA Approves $10 Million To Fund Three Proposed Ballot Measures, Including One on Prescription Drugs
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America last week committed to spend $10 million to put three initiatives, including a prescription drug measure, on the next statewide ballot, the Sacramento Bee reports.
PhRMA's expenditure would fund an initiative similar to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Rx plan, a measure that would prevent public employee unions from using member fees for political purposes and an initiative that would reduce trial lawyers' contingency fees. All three measures have been filed with the attorney general's office by Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, a Sacramento law firm representing PhRMA.
The Bee reports that it "remains to be seen" whether the funding is "a big-time bluff or the first major money move" in a possible special election this fall, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is expected to announce in early March.
According to the Bee, PhRMA's move is in response to a series of ballot initiatives filed last month by Election Watchdog that "targe[t] pharmaceutical industry profits as a way to drive down drug costs." The package brought by the group, which is funded in part by the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights, seeks to end "illegal profiteering" by pharmaceutical firms, allow "joint purchasing" agreements to lower negotiated drug prices and force disclosure of health risks associated with some drugs.
PhRMA declined to comment on the expected expenditure, but PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said in a statement that the group supports a bill (SB 19) introduced by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) that would implement California Rx.
Johnson added in his statement that California Rx would "reduce the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs for millions of Californians." Johnson called the Election Watchdog measures "political in nature" and said the measures offered "little to provide real relief to Californians who need help."
Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's communications director, said that there has been no coordination in the administration's and PhRMA's efforts, adding, "Someone who is working with them has informally told me about it, but that's been the extent of it."
The announcement created an "underground stir" and led to "some early skirmishing" among political operators who have vested interests in the prescription drug bill, the Bee reports.
Republican political consultant Kevin Spillane said, "This is Politics 101. If public employee labor unions are going to file initiatives that go after the pharmaceuticals, [drug companies] have the resources to fire back with their initiatives of their own, and that's what we're seeing." Spillane added that the measure addressing political contributions by labor unions is "another sign that we're looking at the mother of all political wars this fall."
Jamie Court, head of FTCR, called PhRMA's expenditure an effort to drain funds from campaigns to address prescription drugs by labor and lawyer groups. He said, "This is basically [pharmaceutical firms] trying to put a gun to the head of labor unions and attorneys and others (involved in) prescription drug reforms and say, 'If you go forward in funding an initiative that does something too big and takes our profits and provides cheaper drugs, then we're going to come after you and take your power and your money'" (Furillo/Delsohn, Sacramento Bee, 2/15).