Drug Price Ad Exaggerates Initiative’s Reach

June 28, 2016

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Source: The Sacramento Bee

Even before polls closed in the June 7 primary election, the proponents of a fall ballot measure dealing with prescription drug costs were up on TV across California with their first ad of the campaign.

Text

Prescription drug costs are out of control. The drug companies make soaring profits … and we pay the price. It’s time to stop this price-gouging.

But the drug companies have given politicians millions to block action in the Legislature. So it’s up to the people of California.

This November, we can ensure California gets a fair deal for prescription drugs.

Stand up to the companies. Vote YES on the Drug Price Relief Act.

Analysis

In the TV ad, supporters paint a picture of out-of-control drug prices, spurred by politicians’ unwillingness to act because they’re beholden to the industry.

It’s true that Americans spend a lot of money on prescription drugs, and efforts to rein in drug prices in the California Legislature have been unsuccessful, with one recent bill dying and another postponed ahead of a key committee vote. But the ad makes such a broad pitch for the measure, it leaves the viewer with the impression that it would apply to far more Californians than it actually would.

The November initiative, which is drawing fierce opposition and a torrent of spending from the pharmaceutical industry, would bar state government entities from spending more on a prescription drug than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The initiative would apply to direct state purchases, as well as when the state is the ultimate buyer of the drug. While proponents argue that the measure would have a cascade effect on drug prices generally, the ad doesn’t make that distinction.

Even if you understand the measure to apply only to state government, you would be misled by the ad, because the initiative would not cover most of the drugs used by the roughly 10 million Californians in the Medi-Cal managed care program.

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