Prescription Drug Ballot Measure Campaigns Part of Nationwide Trend
Campaigns by the pharmaceutical industry and a coalition of consumer and organized labor groups over competing propositions addressing prescription drugs on the Nov. 8 special election ballot are part of a nationwide movement to provide lower drug prices to the uninsured, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/22).
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.
Proposition 79 would establish a mandatory prescription drug discount program for 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.
Under Proposition 79, people could sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices. Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups support the measure (California Healthline, 8/16).
Jan Faiks, vice president for government affairs at PhRMA, said, "The pharmaceutical industry has made a real effort in the last two years to regain the credibility and the bond with patients. We lost it. We want to get that covenant back." Faiks said the effort began in Ohio, where the industry helped win approval of a voluntary discount program.
However, sponsors of Proposition 79 argue that a voluntary approach will not be effective because drug makers aggressively work to maintain profits.
About 90% of the $1 million in discounts from the voluntary Ohio program, known as Ohio's Best Rx, have come from pharmacies, rather than drug companies, program administrator Jennifer Lopez said.
California advocates have used examples of other states "to help make their case," but legislators elsewhere "say they are following the initiative battle closely," the Union-Tribune reports (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/22).