Fight to Slash Drug Prices Headed for 2016 California Ballot

In News by AHF

379,000 registered California voter signatures have been collected (366,880 are needed) in support of the California Drug Price Relief Act, a 2016 ballot initiative to require the state to pay no more for prescription medications than the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 Signature gathering on similar Ohio ballot measure begins today.

LOS ANGELES and COLUMBUS, OH (August 19, 2015) Drug pricing advocates affiliated with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) are pleased to announce they have collected enough signatures of registered California voters—378,931 signatures as of August 16th—to qualify the California Drug Price Relief Act, a statewide ballot initiative that would revise California law to require state programs to pay no more for prescription medications than the prices negotiated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (notwithstanding any other provision of law and insofar as permissible under federal law).

Separately, advocates from AHF and ‘Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices’ will start collecting voter signatures in Ohio for a similar drug pricing ballot measure starting today. State officials approved petition language earlier this month and gave final clearance for signature gathering late last week. Both the California and Ohio measures are expected to qualify for, and appear on, the November 2016 presidential election ballot.

The California Drug Price Relief Act

To qualify the California measure, 366,880 valid signatures of registered voters are needed (5% of all votes cast for governor in the most recent statewide election, which was held in November 2014). However, as a cushion, advocates, who began collecting signatures in early April, will continue to collect signatures up until the October filing deadlines. Signatures are to be submitted to the respective counties statewide, and after signature certification, the ballot measure is expected to be placed on the November 2016 California ballot.

“As of August 16th, we’ve collected enough signatures to qualify our California ballot measure, which when passed by voters in November 2016, will compel state officials to obtain V.A. pricing—by far, the lowest pricing available to any government agency—for the purchase of prescription drugs for use in state programs; however as a precaution, we plan to continue to collect signatures right up until the October California filing deadlines,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the citizen proponents of the California measure. “If California—and Ohio—are able to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the amounts paid by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it would result in significant savings to taxpayers. These ballot initiatives are necessary and appropriate to address public concern about runaway drug pricing.”

“Nationally, prescription drug spending increased more than 800 percent between 1990 and 2013, making this one of the fastest-growing segments of health care,” said Tracy Jones, Executive Director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and one of the citizen proponents of the Ohio measure. “Spending on specialty medications, in particular, such as those used to treat HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and cancers, are rising faster than other types of medications. In 2014 alone, total spending on specialty medications increased by more than 23 percent. And although Ohio has engaged in efforts to reduce prescription drug costs through rebates, drug manufacturers are still able to charge the state more than other government payers for the same medications, resulting in a dramatic imbalance that must be rectified. That is why we are mounting this initiative, bringing the critical issue to legislators and, if necessary, directly to Ohio voters if the legislature fails to act.”

The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act

On August 3rd, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine approved petition language for a similar drug pricing ballot initiative in Ohio seeking Department of Veterans Affairs pricing for state programs. Last Thursday (Aug. 13), the Ohio Ballot Board approved the proposed statute as a single issue. As a result, that measure, backed by AHF and Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices, was cleared for signature gathering—an effort that will begin in earnest today in Ohio.

According to the website (the Northeast Ohio Media Group), “Supporters can now begin collecting the 91,677 signatures of registered Ohio voters required to put the issue before the Ohio General Assembly. State lawmakers would then have four months to act on the legislation. If they reject or change the proposed law, supporters then have the chance to collect another 91,677 signatures to put the issue before voters.”

According to the Ohio petition language, “The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act would enact Section 194.01 of the Ohio Revised Code to require that notwithstanding any other provision of law and in so far as permissible under federal law, the State of Ohio shall not enter into any agreement for the purchase of prescription drugs or agree to pay, directly or indirectly, for prescription drugs, including where the state is the ultimate payer, unless the net cost is the same or less than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”

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