Some Patient Advocacy Groups That Back Proposition 78 Receive Donations From Drug Companies
Several not-for-profit patient advocacy groups that oppose Proposition 79 and support Proposition 78 on the Nov. 8 special election ballot receive money from drug companies, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Ainsworth , San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27).
Proposition 78, which is supported by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, would establish a voluntary prescription drug discount plan for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level.
Proposition 79, a measure supported by Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups, 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. State residents who spend more than 5% of their annual income on health care also would be eligible to participate in Proposition 79's drug discount program. In addition, people could sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices (California Healthline, 10/24).
The California Arthritis Foundation Council and the California Hepatitis C Task Force support the pharmaceutical industry's measure and "help drug companies portray their cause as a fight for patients' rights, rather than a corporate-sponsored effort to protect profits," the Union-Tribune reports.
California Hepatitis C Task Force President Bill Remak said the organization receives donations of $2,000 to $2,500 from drug companies, which the task force relies on to fund its annual conference.
The Arthritis Foundation, the parent organization of the California Arthritis Foundation Council, received more than $500,000 from Bristol-Myers Squibb, more than $250,000 from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and more than $100,000 from Amgen and Abbott Immunology, according to the foundation's 2004 annual report, the Union-Tribune reports.
The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County, which has been featured on advertising by the Proposition 78 campaign, receives about 10% to 20% of its annual budget of about $500,000 from pharmaceutical companies, according to foundation Executive Director Kathy West.
Mark Warren, member of the California Arthritis Foundation Council, said the group endorses Proposition 78 because it is more workable than Proposition 79 and added that drug company donations did not influence the group's endorsement. "We take money from the pharmaceutical industry," he said, adding, "We're very upfront about that" (Ainsworth , San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27).
In related news, at least nine California branches of the NAACP have publicly supported Proposition 78 and opposed Proposition 79 after the pharmaceutical industry hired former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown Jr. (D) and California NAACP Conference President Alice Huffman's consulting company, the Union-Tribune reports.
PhRMA paid Brown about $350,000 to promote the drug industry's position on the initiatives, according to state records. According to the Union-Tribune, Brown helped the drug industry persuade Huffman and former Assembly member Gwen Moore, who serves as second vice president of the California NAACP conference, to support Proposition 78 and oppose Proposition 79.
According to state records, the Yes on Proposition 78, No on Proposition 79 campaign has paid Huffman's company, AC Public Affairs, $175,000 and owes it $50,000 (Ainsworth , San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27).
Summaries of recent editorials addressing the measures appear below.
Los Angeles Daily News: Both Propositions 78 and 79 "deserve to be defeated ... for very different reasons," a Daily News editorial states. According to the Daily News, Proposition 79 is "a solution that's arguably worse than the problem it purports to solve," and Proposition 78 is "a sham and an affront to the initiative process" (Los Angeles Daily News, 10/26).
Los Angeles Times: Although "Californians of modest income need help with the high price of prescription drugs," the "politics behind [Propositions 78 and 79] are so cowardly that voters could be forgiven for rejecting them both out of pique," a Times editorial states. "We recommend a 'no' vote on both" because "[t]he governor and Legislature should work on a better cure for the state's health care crisis," which "neither of these propositions addresses ... in a practical way" (Los Angeles Times, 10/27).
- Ventura County Star: A Star editorial recommends voting "no" on both Propositions 78 and 79 because "implementation of either would require spending the state cannot afford." In addition, "Proposition 78 offers too little and Proposition 79 too much," the editorial states (Ventura County Star, 10/26).
Proposition 79 "will never offer the help it promises to Californians in need" because "the federal government will never approve this measure," John Kehoe, chair of the policy council for the California Senior Advocates League and chair of the California Seniors Coalition, writes in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece. According to Kehoe, Proposition 79 "runs counter to the government maxim of improving the health of low-income and disabled patients" (Kehoe, Sacramento Bee, 10/27).
KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" on Wednesday included a discussion of Propositions 78 and 79. Guests on the program included:
- Richard Brown, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California-Los Angeles;
- Victoria Colliver, reporter on health care issues for the San Francisco Chronicle; and
- Glenn Melnick, chair of health care finance at the University of Southern California School of Policy Planning and Development and resident consultant for RAND (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 10/26).
In addition, KQED's "Forum" on Wednesday in the first hour of the program included a discussion on Propositions 78 and 79. Guests on the program included:
- Paul Green, policy council member for the California Senior Advocates League, which supports Proposition 78;
- Earl Lui, senior attorney with the West Coast Office of the Consumers Union and spokesperson for Proposition 79; and
- David Mangus, associate professor of pediatrics, medicine and philosophy at Stanford University (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 10/26).
Additional information on Propositions 78 and 79 is available online. 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.