Drug Price Relief Act Pushed to Next Year’s Ballot
Months of litigation will keep a measure aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs off the November ballot this year. The Drug Price Relief Act, facing opposition from several groups, might make it to next year’s ballot if all goes well this time.
The act is simple in intent — address the inflated drug prices contributing to the rising healthcare costs Ohioans continue to face. To do that, it mandates that any state entity or state funded program pay the same or less for a prescription drug than the Department of Veterans Affairs, where drug pricing is known to be between 20-24 percent lower than any other government program.
The act also applies to drugs purchased through state-funded programs, like the Ohio Best Rx Program and the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program, where the prescriptions are indirectly bought by the state.
Don McTigue, attorney for the ballot initiative’s proponents, said the act is for more than government employees; thousands of Ohioans rely on state-funded programs for healthcare. He said state employees as well as private employees, seniors, and people with physical or mental disabilities will pay far less for their medications than they do now.
“The other thing is, of course, it would benefit all taxpayers, because the state would be spending less,” McTigue said. “So there’s an indirect benefit to taxpayers. The state could spend less on prescription drugs, or the state could buy more prescription drugs. It would free up some substantial money that the state could use for other programs.”
After gathering signatures from the required three percent of Ohio voters, backers of the issue, AIDs Healthcare Foundation and Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices, submitted the petition. Secretary of State Jon Husted certified the petition and sent it to the General Assembly early February. Once there, it sat in the clerk’s office for the four-month period the Assembly had to vote on it.
“They didn’t give it any consideration at all, and they don’t have to,” McTigue said. “You’d think they would when you have that many Ohioans signing the petition, but they didn’t give it any consideration at all.”
In the meantime, though, litigation surrounding the issue stacked up. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) came together in strong opposition toward the act and challenged tens of thousands of the signatures backers had gathered. The Ohio Supreme Court (OSC) inevitably ruled against PhRMA and OMA.
Proponents filed a second lawsuit to get signatures back that had been thrown out by the boards and Husted. Last Friday the ruling from OSC came back in their favor, restoring 22,000 wrongfully invalidated signatures.
As of Monday a second petition was submitted, and signatures are being validated by the 88 county boards.