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Vote ‘Yes’ on state Issue 2 to force Big Pharma’s hand

Thursday, October 26, 2017

There’s no reason for any- one to believe that the pharmaceutical behemoths will simply walk away if Ohio voters approve state Issue 2 – the Ohio Drug Relief Act – on Nov. 7.

Indeed, the prescription drug industry, which is spending millions of dollars to defeat the citizen-initiated statute, will file lawsuits to block its implementation. Big Pharma knows that passage of Issue 2, if unchallenged in a court of law, will open the floodgates to action by other states.

It is the prospect of a court battle that prompts us to urge a “Yes” vote next month. Having the chief executive officers of the pharmaceutical companies on the witness stand testifying under oath will energize those Americans who are victims of the industry’s price gouging and manipulation.

In court, the CEOs will not enjoy the protection of members of Congress who are captives of Big Pharma because of campaign contributions.

Here’s one example of the power the industry wields: A House Oversight and Government Reform study has estimated that Medicare officials could have saved taxpayers as much as $156 billion over the past decade had Congress allowed them to negotiate the price of drugs they purchase.

The reality of Americans being forced to choose between paying the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs and buying food last year prompted Donald J. Trump, then the Republican nominee for president, to make this statement:

“I’m going to bring down drug prices. I don’t like what happened with drug prices.”

But while President Trump initially seemed to have backed away from taking on Big Pharma, a recent statement from him suggests that lowering drug prices are back on his agenda.

With Trump using the power of the presidency to turn the national spotlight on this important issue, any legal challenges in Ohio to state Issue 2 will be fought with the White House as an ally.

Indeed, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican running for governor next year, can be expected to defend the Ohio Drug Relief Act.

We are confident, given Trump’s public comments, that the administration would be more than willing to assist the state in fighting the drug manufacturers.

Political power

State Issue 2 is a direct assault on one of the most politically powerful industries in the nation. By the time voters go to the polls, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, a drug industry trade group, could well have shelled out $30 million to block passage of Issue 2. It is noteworthy that all the money being spent to defeat the ballot issue is coming from PhRMA.

Here’s the bottom-line question for Ohioans: Should state government agencies be able to buy prescription drugs at prices no higher than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays?

The answer would appear to be a no-brainer given that the Veterans Affairs department receives a federally mandated discount of 24 percent on prescription drugs.

Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices is leading the effort to pass the issue, and is sponsored by the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The $800 million foundation is presided over by Californian Michael Weinstein.

The opposition, led by Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue, is being funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

At least 4 million Ohioans who receive their drugs through state agencies would pay less because the state would realize cost savings, which the proponents have pegged at $400 million.

But Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Drug Ballot Issue has summarily dismissed the figure as having no basis of fact.

Both sides are engaged in an intensive, expensive war of words via television commercials and in-depth newspaper stories.

Ohioans should disabuse themselves of the notion that altruism is driving Big Pharma’s opposition to state Issue 2. The plain truth is that the industry is scared to death of other states following Ohio’s lead.