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Ohioans Will Vote to Change Prescription Drug Prices in November

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Anyone keeping up with the healthcare debate probably caught CNN’s town hall discussion Monday night, between Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). The four were on two sides of the issue, one favoring the current Republican replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and one adamantly opposing the proposal and promoting the idea of a universal healthcare system.

The issues within the healthcare system are complex and plentiful, but one issue Sanders centered on was the rising cost of prescription drugs, an issue that hits home here in Ohio. U.S. citizens currently pay more than any other country for the same prescription drugs. Ohio’s Issue 2, The Drug Price Relief Act, is an initiative that would require state agencies to pay the same or less for prescription drugs as the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and it’s set to appear on the November ballot this year.

According to the proposal, 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.”

The VA negotiates drug prices with companies, often paying 20 to 24 percent less than any other agency for the same drugs. Programs paid into by the state would be under the same requirement, including the Ohio Best Rx Program and the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program.

If passed, the state would also be required to pay the attorney fees and expenses for the measure’s petitioners, should it face legal challenges in court. If Issue 2 is ruled unenforceable, those petitioners would be forced to pay the state $10,000.

As of September 21, $6.23 million has been raised by the campaign supporting Issue 2, Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices, almost all of which was contributed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, according to Ballotpedia.

On the other side, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and a PhRMA subsidiary has spent $16.23 million to keep this measure from succeeding, an effort organized by Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue.

Issue 2 is endorsed by several politicians and healthcare groups, including National Nurses United, Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, Sen. Nina Turner, the Veterans Affairs Director Max Cleland and the Northern Ohio Breast Cancer Coalition, among others.

Organizations across Ohio also oppose Issue 2, including Equitas Health, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, and the Ohio State Medical Association.

During the debate on Monday, Sanders claimed a dire need to take on the pharmaceutical industry. Back in July, he officially endorsed the issue and released a video to show his support.

“There are millions of senior citizens in this country who cut their prescription drug pills in half because they cannot afford the medicine. One out of five people in the country cannot afford the medicine that their doctors prescribe, and they’re going to get sicker and in some cases die,” he says in the video, “but five major companies made $50 billion in profits … You have an insane situation. The time is long overdue for the American people to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry.”

For more information on Issue 2, visit yesonissue2.com and deceptiverxissue.org.  

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