Senate Passes Bill To Create Web Site Comparing State, Canadian Drug Prices
The Senate on Thursday voted 21-13 to approve a bill (AB 1957) to help state residents reimport lower-cost, U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada, the AP/Oakland Tribune reports. The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), was passed "despite strong opposition" from pharmaceutical companies and indications that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would veto the measure, the AP/Tribune reports (Wasserman, AP/Oakland Tribune, 8/27). The bill would direct the Department of Health Services to develop a Web site by July 1, 2005, that would list prices in California and Canada for the 50 most commonly prescribed brand-name medications (California Healthline, 8/20). Frommer's bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration of Senate amendments (AP/Oakland Tribune, 8/27).
In related news, the Los Angeles Times on Friday examined how a "series of rapid-fire votes," including those on the reimportation bills and a measure that would allow bulk drug purchases for state programs, could define Schwarzenegger's "political philosophy" and his "connections to special interests that helped finance his election and ballot campaigns." Schwarzenegger has said the reimportation bills are illegal because they would violate federal law, but Democrats are intent "on making Schwarzenegger take a public stand against the bills -- all being closely watched by advocates for the elderly," the Times reports.
The governor also will face a bill -- opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce -- that would prohibit health care companies from using overseas workers to process medical information without patients' consent.
According to the Times, business interests "have a voice in Schwarzenegger's administration." Drug makers such as Genentech and Pfizer donated $103,000 to the governor during his recall campaign and $186,000 since he was elected. Pharmaceutical firms also are helping to fund the governor's trip next week to the Republican National Convention in New York City.
Schwarzenegger spokesperson Margita Thompson said the governor will examine each bill on its merits. "The prism under which legislation is going to be looked at is going to be on job-creating and the economy," Thompson said, adding, "One of the reasons [Schwarzenegger] was elected in October was to get the state's fiscal house in order" (Salladay/Rau, Los Angeles Times, 8/27).
KQED's "Forum with Michael Krasny" on Friday reported on prescription drug costs in the state. The segment included comments from Dr. Stephen Chang, president of Californians United for Research, Economic Development and Saving Lives and CEO of Astral Therapeutics; Jerry Flanagan, lead advocate for health care reform and personal privacy issues at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights; and Victoria Colliver, a health care reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle (Coiro, "Forum with Michael Krasny," KQED, 8/27). The segment will be available online.
KPCC's "AirTalk" on Tuesday featured a segment on AB 1957. The segment included comments from Frommer, American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Jack Calfee, California Pharmacists Association CEO Carlo Michelotti and Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights Executive Director Jamie Court (Morrison, "AirTalk," KPCC, 8/24).