Daily 49er

On the propositions: Proposition 61

Drug Price Standards Initiative.

Navy Keophan, Staff Writer

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Voters will be deciding whether or not to regulate prescription drug prices in the state of California this November.

If passed, Proposition 61, also known as the Drug Price Standards Initiative, would require state agencies to pay the same prices that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays for prescription drugs.

Currently, state agencies in California negotiate drug prices with manufacturers in order to try to receive discounts and lower prices. In some cases, state agencies can independently or jointly negotiate drug prices. This leads to different agencies paying different prices for the same drug.

Under Proposition 61, state agencies would be prohibited from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at any price over the lowest price paid for the same drug by the VA – except as required by federal law. The law would apply to any program where the state agency is responsible for paying for a prescription drug, even if it does not buy the drug itself.

Prescription drugs bought under managed-care programs such as Medi-Cal would be exempt from Proposition 61.

Supporters of the ballot initiative say that measure is needed because there has been public outcry over massive price hikes on life-saving drugs such as EpiPen. They also say that the initiative would save taxpayers billions of dollars in healthcare costs while providing more access to life-saving drugs.

Proposition 61 is supported by former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, the California Green Party, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Los Angeles Urban League and AARP.

Opponents argue that the proposition would increase the cost of prescription drugs in California, with veterans being the most negatively affected group. Those against Proposition 61 say that the VA receives special discounts on prescription drugs for veterans and that the measure would eliminate the discounts the agency receives. They also argue that the measure would reduce patient access to medicines while increasing red tape, taxpayer costs and lawsuits.

Those opposed to Proposition 61 include veteran’s organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and AMVETS. Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents California’s 4th Congressional District, the California branch of the NAACP and health organizations such as the Lupus Foundation of Southern California.

Pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Amgen and Eli Lily have donated money to the campaign to defeat the measure’s passage, which has raised $86.9 million compared to $14.7 million raised by those supporting it.

*This article is part of a weekly series informing students on the propositions up for vote on the November ballot.

**All information comes from Ballotpedia.com, a nonprofit organization that provides nonpartisan information on American politics and elections.

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