Ballot Measure Would Limit Drug Costs for State Programs

A new poll suggests widespread support for a measure headed for the 2016 ballot that would cap prescription drug prices paid by state programs.

The California Drug Price Act would prohibit the state from using taxpayer money to pay more for any prescription drug than the amount paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Unlike other government programs, the VA uses its bargaining power to negotiate prices. As a result, it pays about 20 percent less for drugs than other government agencies.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation — author of the initiative — tested the waters with a poll conducted between Oct. 26 and Nov. 5. Results show 76 percent of respondents support the measure. When respondents read arguments on both sides, support rose to 81 percent.

“These are some of the highest levels of support you’ll find for an initiative in California,” campaign spokesman Mike Roth said in a news release. “People are fed up with the greed and price-gouging of the big pharmaceutical companies, and they expect their state government to do something about it.”

The measure has not yet qualified for the 2016 ballot. Backers delivered what they say are more than enough signatures to make that happen, but they have not been verified by the Secretary of State.

Opposition will be fierce. Questions have been raised about how the mandate will work — and it targets the pocketbooks and research capabilities of the pharmaceutical and bioscience industries.

“While this ballot measure may look simple, the changes being proposed will have adverse consequences for Californians,” said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the as yet-unnamed group that plans to oppose the measure. “If it goes forward, we will be preparing a campaign to educate voters in California about its negative consequences. We expect a broad coalition of groups, representing millions of Californians, to strongly oppose this ballot measure and help us defeat it if it qualifies for November 2016.”

The Office of the Legislative Analyst is studying the measure, but has yet to release analysis.

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