Ohio ballot fight over drug prices sees $50M in spending

Ohio ballot fight over drug prices sees $50M in spending
Posted at 7:55 PM, Oct 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 19:54:59-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Backers of a fall ballot issue in Ohio aimed at lowering what the state pays for drugs have been outspent by the pharmaceutical industry-funded opposition by nearly 4-1.

Campaign finance reports filed Thursday show Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue has spent $39.4 million against Issue 2 since July. It still has $7.8 million in the bank.

The proponents’ campaign, Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices, has spent $10.4 million and has about $9,000 in the bank.

The “yes” campaign is funded almost exclusively by the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, whose president Michael Weinstein has been the subject of relentless TV attack ads airing around the state.

The “no” side is funded by a subsidiary of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, that’s not required to disclose its donors, drawing criticism from supporters of the ballot issue.

MORE: Get your questions answered about Issue 2

The two sides are engaged in a high-profile ad war over the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, which seeks to bar state agencies from buying drugs at prices higher than what’s paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which receives deep discounts.

Supporters say capping how much Ohio government agencies, including those overseeing Medicaid and workers’ compensation, spend on prescription medications will save consumers money and ultimately push down the overall cost of medicine.

The industry argues that no savings are guaranteed and the issue is plagued with unanswered legal questions and unintended consequences. A provision in the proposal would require Ohio to defend the issue against lawsuits.

An analysis by the Office of Budget and Management concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine any cost savings to the state, though some could be expected if “all the issues were worked through” to successful implementation.

EDITORIAL: Pharma industry needs scrutiny but Issue 2 is not the right fix

The campaign for Issue 1, a crime victims’ rights measure, reported spending $5.4 million for the period.

The constitutional amendment, dubbed Marsy’s Law, is named for a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. The man was released on bail a week after her murder without her family being told.

The measure would give crime victims and their families the same rights as the accused, including notice of court proceedings, input on plea deals and the ability to tell their story.

Though there’s no organized opposition campaign, both the state public defender and the state prosecuting attorneys’ association have come out against it, citing possible unintended consequences, as has the ACLU.