LOS ANGELES (December 22, 2015)—Drug pricing advocates affiliated with Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today filed 171,205 registered Ohio voter signatures with state officials in support of the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, a proposed statewide ballot initiative that will revise Ohio law to require state programs pay the same or less for prescription medications as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. With the majority of Americans naming the affordability of high-cost drugs for chronic conditions such as HIV, hepatitis, cancer and mental illness as a top health care priority, Ohio drug pricing advocates have responded by working across the state to collect voter signatures to place the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act on the November 2016 ballot. The measure aims to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the state by giving state government programs the ability to pay no more for medications than the VA, which generally receives discounts of 20% to 24% for prescription drugs.
“In poll after poll, Americans continue to express their deep concerns about the exploding costs of health care and prescription drugs. For people with chronic conditions including HIV, hepatitis and cancer who depend on their medications to stay alive, the urgent need to control high drug costs is more pressing than just a campaign slogan or simple policy discussion,” said Tracy Jones, Executive Director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and one of the citizen proponents of the Ohio measure. “Each day, people are choosing between the basic necessities of life and paying for their medications. Change starts at home, and that’s why we’re hitting the streets across the state to raise awareness and support for the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act. The fact that we’ve collected almost twice as many signatures than we need for the legislature to take action at this point clearly shows Ohioans’ broad support for lowering prescription drug prices. Our elected state leaders either need to deal with this issue directly or allow Ohio voters to take a stand in November 2016 for controlling drug prices if the legislators can’t bring themselves to take action.”
“While we’ve seen ample evidence that there is seemingly no limit to the corporate greed of pharmaceutical companies, we also know that Americans are tired of feeling afraid every time they go to the doctor or it’s time to get a prescription filled,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Astronomical prescription drug prices hurt everyone—except the drug makers’ bottom lines. This has got to stop.”
Since mid-August, advocates from AHF and Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices have been collecting signatures throughout the state to qualify the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act for the November 2016 ballot. Although only 91,677 signatures (equal to 3 percent of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election) are required by state law for citizens to initiate legislation, drug pricing advocates submitted 171,205 signatures today for verification by state election officials. Once verified, the state legislature will have four months to act on the measure. State legislators must pass the law as written or supporters must collect an additional 91,677 signatures for the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act to appear on the November 2016 statewide ballot.
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.”
In addition to being affiliated with the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, AHF operates healthcare centers and pharmacies in Cleveland and Columbus. The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland serves over 1,200 clients and their families in six counties in Northeast Ohio by providing vital social services to include case management, nutrition, transportation and HIV/AIDS/STDs education/ prevention, research and advocacy. Opened in November 2013 at 2829 Euclid Avenue, The Cleveland AHF Healthcare Center offers free HIV testing and medical services, in addition to an on-site AHF Pharmacy. The Columbus AHF Healthcare Center, which opened in January 2013, is located at 815 W. Broad St., Suite 350 at Mount Carmel Hospital West, also provides HIV testing and treatment services. AHF Pharmacy is a full-service facility staffed with pharmacists who specialize in HIV/AIDS medications (as well as general pharmacy services), providing clients with access to the additional specialists, medications and services they need to be as healthy as possible.