In campaign ad, drug price measure foes lob unsubstantiated claim

The opponents of a drug price initiative on California’s fall ballot are responding to the campaign’s first TV ad with a video spot of their own. The “No” campaign, sponsored by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, argues the init
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The opponents of a drug price initiative on California’s fall ballot are responding to the campaign’s first TV ad with a video spot of their own. The “No” campaign, sponsored by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, argues the init
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Capitol Alert

Drug price measure foes lob unsubstantiated claim

By Christopher Cadelago

ccadelago@sacbee.com

June 24, 2016 04:20 PM

The opponents of a drug price initiative on California’s fall ballot are responding to the campaign’s first TV ad with a video spot of their own.

The “no” campaign, sponsored by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, with funding from major drugmakers like Merck & Co. and Pfizer, argues the initiative will not lower prescription drug prices for Californians.

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You may have seen this misleading ad alleging that the drug contracting initiative will lower drug prices for Californians.

But it won’t. Here are the facts.

▪ Fact: The measure would exclude 88 percent of all Californians.

▪ Fact: The remaining 12 percent could face reduced access to vitally needed medicines.

▪ Fact: The measure would lead to more government bureaucracy and red tape that taxpayers would pay for.

Look into the facts yourself.

Analysis

As the ad correctly claims, the vast majority of California’s 39 million residents would not be covered by the measure, which would prevent state government and its entities from spending more on prescription drugs than the lowest price paid by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

The measure would not apply to roughly 20 million Californians who receive health insurance from their employers. It also wouldn’t cover most of the drugs used by more than 10 million people in Medi-Cal’s managed care program.

It would apply to 3.2 million people in Medi-Cal’s fee-for-service program, nearly 840,000 in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, as well as a few hundred thousand more from the University of California, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California State University, and others.

It’s also true that at least one agency has raised concerns about drug access and red tape.

CalPERS, in a June 14 report on the measure, said its intent to lower drug prices is “very attractive.” However, should it become law, officials there warned about several potential drawbacks, including decreased access to certain drugs and challenges with compliance.

But the ad’s central claim, that the initiative will not lower drug prices for Californians, is deceptive. Analysis of the measure so far has said it’s hard to predict how prices will respond to the change.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says estimating the initiative’s effect on state prescription drug spending is made difficult by two major factors: uncertainty around whether the lowest prices paid by Veterans Affairs are publicly available, and how drugmakers would respond if those prices were obtained.

Under one scenario, it said that rather than decreasing prices for state entities, drug prices for Veterans Affairs could rise. But it outlined another scenario in which drug costs for the state could decrease.

PoliGRAPH is The Bee’s political fact checker, rating campaign advertisements and candidate claims as True, Iffy or False.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago