In an interview for a California Healthline special audio report, Lynn Rolston, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, said that pharmacists currently are not taking a position on either of the competing propositions addressing prescription drugs on the Nov. 8 special election ballot because they contain “so little detail” on how the legislation would affect pharmacists and patients’ access to pharmacists (Rebillot, California Healthline, 9/6).
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 require pharmaceutical companies to provide discounts to state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level 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, 8/24).
Rolston said, “We just feel unclear as to where best to come down, certainly in terms of making a choice between the two. So we felt … that neutral is probably best, we’d like to wait to see how the dialog develops between the two sides to determine if there is in fact any kind of position we could take.”
According to Rolston, campaigns comparing California’s propositions to laws in Maine and Ohio might not be entirely accurate, as California is a larger, more diverse state. However, Rolston said that because pharmacists provided most of the voluntary discounts in Ohio, some California pharmacists fear that discounts promised under Proposition 78 could be expected to come from pharmacies — which currently only make a 2% profit — rather than from pharmaceutical companies.
Rolston said that compelling pharmaceutical companies to provide “deep discounts” under Proposition 79 “has some problems all by itself” because profit margins across the industry vary.
The special audio report also includes comments from Jan Faiks, vice president for government affairs at PhRMA, and Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California (California Healthline, 9/6).
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