By Megan Alley
On Nov. 7, Ohio voters will be asked to weigh in on the complex issue of pharmaceutical pricing.
Those stepping up to the ballot box will decide whether or not to approve Issue 2, The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act.
The proposed law would require state agencies to pay no more for prescription drugs than the prices netted by the federal Department of Veterans Administration, which negotiates drug prices with companies and typically pays 20 to 24 percent less than other agencies, according to the League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund Voters’ Guide 2017.
In other words, the law “prohibits the state from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer for a price over the lowest price paid for the drug by the VA,” reads the voters’ guide. “Specifically, it would forbid state agencies to enter into any purchasing agreement with drug manufacturers unless the net cost of the drug is the same or less than that paid by the VA.”
A “yes” vote means approval of the Act.
A “no” vote means disapproval of the Act.
The law will only impact those — about 4 million Ohioans — who receive drugs paid for by the State. The state agencies affected by the proposed law include the Ohio Departments of Medicaid, Jobs and Family Services, Insurance, Health and Aging.
The law will not affect those — about 7 million Ohioans — with any other type of coverage, including private insurance, Medicare or non-state-provided coverage.
Some of the pros of the law, as presented in the guide, are:
— As one of the main drivers of rising health care costs, drug costs need to be controlled while maintaining access to needed medications.
— The state would save an estimated $400 million in drug costs each year, an indirect benefit to taxpayers.
— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has indicated that he will defend the law from inevitable lawsuits.
Some of the cons of the law, as presented in the guide, are:
— Terms like “drug,” “state,” “ultimate payer,” and “net cost” are not defined by the Act.
— The Act does not address pricing for drugs that the VA does not purchase, and “creates costly, complex, purchasing arrangements.”
— Pharmaceutical companies may respond to the law by reversing existing discounts and rebates, raising prescription prices charged to non-covered entities and individuals and/or raising process charged to the VA.
Leading the campaign in support of the initiative is “Yes on Issue 2,” also known as “Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices.” The group’s website is http://yesonissue2.com.
Endorsements for “Yes on Issue 2” include National Nurses United, Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and VoteVets.org.
Leading the campaign in opposition to the initiative is “No on Issue 2,” also known as “Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue.” The group’s website is https://www.noonissue2.org.
Endorsements for “No on Issue 2” include the American Legion Department of Ohio, the Ohio Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio Chapter and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.