Thursday, September 1, 2016

Californication and the Battle Over Drug Pricing

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

POLITICO reported this week that California's controversial Prop 61, entitled the "California Drug Price Relief Act," is likely to get the green light from voters at the ballot box this November, according to a recent poll. Nearly three quarters (73%) of those polled indicated that they support Prop 61, compared to only 13% who are opposed to it -- with approximately 14% of the survey's respondents remain undecided. The ballot initiative appears to have the strongest support among registered Democrats (77%), but also 70% of registered Republicans and 68% of unaffiliated voters.[1]

Ballot with "Yes" marked
Photo Source: Moyers & Company

According to Californians for Lower Drug Prices, which is supporting the ballot initiative, (verbatim language from the Yes on Prop 61, Californians for Lower Drug Prices, with major funding by AIDS Healthcare Foundation and California Nurses Association PAC) "The Drug Price Relief Act would require the state of California to negotiate with drug companies for drug prices that are no more than is paid for the same drugs by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).  Unlike Medicare, the VA negotiates for drug prices on behalf of the nearly 22 million veterans it serves, and pays on average 20-24 percent less for medications than other government agencies, and up to 40 percent less than Medicare Part D.  The Drug Price Relief Act empowers the state, as the healthcare buyer for millions of Californians, to negotiate the same or an even better deal for taxpayers, saving the state billions."[2]

The poll was conducted by Tulchin Research, among 800 likely voters conducted from July 21-24, 2016. According to a Tulchin Research memorandum obtained by the ADAP Advocacy Association:

"The survey finds that nearly three-quarters of voters would vote yes in support of Proposition 61 (73% yes with leaners, 66% without leaners) when presented the measure’s title and summary, including four out of 10 (41%) who say they would definitely vote yes, while just 13% of voters would oppose the measure (12% without leaners) and 14 percent are currently undecided."[3]

Prop 61 has been endorsed by a long list of organizations -- including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) – California Chapter. To view endorsements, go to

But not everyone is behind the ballot initiative. Aside from groups expected to oppose such a measure -- such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) -- it is being opposed by some other heavy hitters. Among them; the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the California NAACP, and the California Medical Association. To view opponents to Prop 61, go to

Interestingly enough, some national and state HIV/AIDS organizations are opposing the ballot initiative; and other organizations -- such as Project Inform and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation -- are staying on the sidelines. The chief complaint against it won't actually save the state any money. In fact, "highly uncertain" is how the California Legislative Analyst’s Office characterized the impact of the ballot initiative, should it pass in November.[4]

The state's analysis found, "Even if the initiative were to result in cost savings to the state, it is unclear whether or not lower prices would be realized for consumers. The initiative does not include any provisions that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for consumers who are increasingly having difficulty accessing treatment, both because employers and insurers are passing on more of the cost to employees and consumers, and because more restrictions to access are being placed on higher-cost drugs."[5]

Summarized Eddie Hamilton, with the ADAP Educational Initiative, "The current convulsed, inconsistent system across the country compounded with the widespread conflicts of interest is hurting access more than any state Proposition could ever do. That is what had created the breeding ground for that ballot initiative."

And for now, voters in California are moving in the direction of the "Yes" forces during this contentious battle in the Golden State! Stay tuned...

[1] POLITICO, "New poll shows strong support for landmark drug pricing ballot measure,"  August 2, 2016; available online at
[2] Yes on Prop 61, Californians for Lower Drug Prices, "Californians for Lower Drug Prices Launches TV Ad Campaign," June 7, 2016; available online at
[3] Tulchin Research, "California Statewide Survey Shows Strong Support for Proposition 61, the Ballot Measure to Lower Prices on Prescription Drugs," July 28, 2016.
[4] Hemmelgarn, Seth, The Bay Area Reporter, "Prop 61 targets drug prices," August 25, 2016; available online at
[45 Hemmelgarn, Seth, The Bay Area Reporter, "Prop 61 targets drug prices," August 25, 2016; available online at

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