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July 7 — Ohio's drug-pricing ballot initiative won't appear on the November 2016 ballot, but supporters will focus their efforts on having it voted on in the fall of 2017.
Ged Kenslea, a spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which organized the initiative proposal along with Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices, told Bloomberg BNA that they didn't have enough time to obtain the necessary 92,000 signatures during the 30-day period left to them for the task after a Ohio Supreme Court ruling in early June (24 HCPR 850, 6/13/16).
If approved, the measure would have required state programs to pay the same or lower prices for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
California voters will vote on a similar measure this fall (24 HCPR 814, 6/6/16).
Supporters have suggested that the VA pays 20 percent to 24 percent less than other government programs.
“July 6 was our deadline for collecting signatures, but because of the delaying tactics of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R), we won’t be able to meet the deadline,” Kenslea said, alluding to a delay by Husted in forwarding the measure to the Ohio Legislature (24 HCPR 234, 2/15/16).
Under Ohio’s initiated statute process, supporters of a proposal must go through two rounds of petition collection in order to get a measure on the ballot, Kenslea said. After the first round, the measure is presented to the Legislature for possible action. If the Legislature declines to act, supporters then must collect signatures a second time.
Husted first presented the measure to the Ohio Legislature Feb. 4, around a month later than he should have, Kenslea said. This had the effect of so compressing the petition-collecting schedule for the organizers after the Legislature declined to act that meeting the 92,000-signature threshold became impossible, he said.
Kenslea said that supporters have another 60 days to collect signatures for the November 2017 ballot, and are confident that they will be able to exceed the threshold by a comfortable margin. “We had well over 92,000 signatures for the first round of collecting, and we certainly will again for a measure that is as popular as this with the voters of Ohio,” he said. The group’s initial polling suggested that the measure was supported by around 80 percent of the voters, an even greater number than in California, he said.
The measure has been opposed by a coalition of business groups, including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America (PhRMA), the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.
In a statement, Priscilla VanderVeer, a spokeswoman for PhRMA, said, “We are glad that this flawed proposal will not appear on the November 2016 ballot in Ohio….The proposal lacks operational guidelines, disregards the state’s current drug purchasing and discount practices, and could negatively impact non-state pharmacy programs, including those that serve veterans.”
The PhRMA representative said the proposed policy “would dramatically disrupt the system that serves those who depend on state programs for medicine, and the vague nature of the proposal will mean years of red tape and litigation, as public policy officials and impacted agencies struggle to figure out how it can be implemented.”
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