Measure To Control Rx Drug Prices Qualifies for 2016 California Ballot
On Thursday, the California Secretary of State's office announced that a proposal designed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the state has qualified for the 2016 ballot, but opponents -- largely drugmakers -- have raised millions of dollars to defeat the measure, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Miller, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 12/18).
The California Drug Price Relief Act, which is supported by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, would impose price controls on prescription drug purchases funded -- directly and indirectly -- by the state.
The proposal would mandate that the state pay the same as or less than the rates paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drug purchases. California currently pays billions of dollars for prescription drugs -- both directly, such as for prison health care, and indirectly, such as for Medi-Cal and CalPERS managed care plans. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
According to the state's Legislative Analyst's Office and the Department of Finance, the effects of the proposal are not entirely clear. However, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said it could benefit about five million Californians, including:
- 2.7 million non-HMO Medi-Cal beneficiaries;
- 2.2 million CalPERS and California State Teachers' Retirement System members;
- 112,000 inmates; and
- 31,000 residents who receive AIDS drugs from government-assistance programs (California Healthline, 11/12).
Calif. Secretary of State Confirms Valid Signatures
Proponents of the measure submitted nearly 543,000 signatures this summer. According to a random sample examined by the secretary of state's office, supporters submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The measure can be pulled from the ballot anytime through June 30, 2016. According to "Capitol Alert," doing so would allow proponents to seek a deal in the California Legislature to avoid a ballot standoff.
On Friday, Mike Roth -- a spokesperson for Californians for Lower Drug Prices -- said, "This is the most comprehensive drug price reduction initiative that has gone before voters in more than a decade."
Opponents Raise Millions To Fight Measure
Drug industry opponents of the ballot measure, who say the measure is misleading and flawed, have raised tens of millions of dollars to defeat the proposal, "Capitol Alert" reports.
Specifically, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America since September has reported raising nearly $38 million from about 30 drugmakers for efforts to defeat the measure. In comparison, supporters had $69,000 on hand as of Sept. 30, and have since raised an additional $125,000.
Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for the opponents' campaign, in a statement said that the ballot measure could "increase the prices of prescription drugs sold to veterans and many California consumers and ... reduce the number of drug choices available to Californians all while costing taxpayers millions more in state bureaucracy and lawsuits because it will be virtually impossible to implement" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 12/18).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.