Voters Reject Prescription Drug Measures on Special Election Ballot
California voters on Tuesday rejected Propositions 78 and 79 -- the dueling prescription drug measures on the special election ballot -- the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Burress, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/9).
Proposition 78 would have established a voluntary prescription drug discount plan for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. The measure was supported by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Proposition 79, a measure supported by Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups, would have required 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 have exceeded 400% of the federal poverty level. State residents who spend more than 5% of their annual income on health care also would have been eligible to participate in Proposition 79's drug discount program. In addition, people would have been allowed to sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices (California Healthline, 11/7).
With 100% of precincts reporting, 41.5% of Californians voted in favor of Proposition 78, while 58.5% voted 'no' on the measure. On Proposition 79, 38.9% of voters voted 'yes' and 61.1% voted 'no,' according to the California Secretary of State Web site (California Secretary of State Web site, 11/9).
Record contributions from pharmaceutical companies to defeat Proposition 79 and promote Proposition 78 made the election the most expensive initiative campaign in state history (Elias, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 11/8). The industry spent $80 million on the Yes on 78-No on 79 campaign (Finnegan/Salladay, Los Angeles Times, 11/9). According to the Chronicle, the "blitz of costly television and radio advertising for Prop. 78 didn't seem to garner much support for the drug companies' measure, [b]ut it may have helped defeat Prop. 79" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/9).
Pre-election polls indicated that voters were confused by the competing measures (Elias, AP/Bakersfield Californian, 11/9).
The pharmaceutical industry might be the "biggest winner" in the election since "defeating 79 was [a] bigger priority" than passing Proposition 78, the Contra Costa Times reports (Kurtzman, Contra Costa Times, 11/8).
Proposition 78 spokesperson John Kehoe said the election results "sent a strong signal that [voters] prefer the Prop. 78 framework to that proposed in Prop. 79" (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 11/8).
Anthony Wright, who led the Yes on 79 campaign, said that "by sponsoring their own measure, drug companies have admitted that drug prices are too high."
Supporters of both initiatives said they will continue to press the issue in the Legislature (AP/Bakersfield Californian, 11/9).
Additional information on Propositions 78 and 79 is available online.