Drug-Price Ballot Proposal Stirs Industry Opposition

Friday, Nov 04, 2016

The pharmaceutical industry has contributed $109 million to defeat a ballot proposal to restrict drug prices in California, according to the state government—the latest flashpoint in a national debate over rising prescription costs.

California voters will be asked Nov. 8 to vote on Proposition 61, which would prohibit state agencies from buying any prescription drug at prices higher than those paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with certain exceptions. The VA negotiates discounts with drug manufacturers.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides medical care to patients with HIV and AIDS, and the California Nurses Association are the leading supporters of Proposition 61, arguing that drugmakers are overcharging consumers and taxpayers. Supporters have spent about $16.8 million on TV advertisements and other efforts to promote the measure.

Former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared at a Los Angeles rally last month in support of the proposition. His Twitter account also tweeted: “If we beat the drug industry in California we are going to put them on the defensive and lower the cost of medication across this country.”

More than 30 drug companies, including Merck & Co. and Pfizer Inc., have contributed money to fund ads urging voters to reject Proposition 61. Opponents say the measure could lead to higher costs by invalidating discounts that some state agencies have already negotiated for drugs.

Both supporters and opponents ran TV ads during some of the nationally televised Los Angeles Dodgers games in the Major League Baseball playoffs in October. A poll of likely California voters released in late September found 50% were inclined to vote yes to Proposition 61 and 16% no. About 34% were undecided.


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