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Another View: What to know about Prop. 61 – prescription drug price limits

By: Randi Swisley / Placer County League of Women Voters
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   This is another in a series of columns by Randi Swisley, president of the League of Women Voters of Placer County, exploring propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot.

   Proposition 61 asks voters if state agencies should be prohibited from paying more for any prescription drug than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays for that same drug.
   The state purchases prescription drugs covering current and retired state employees, prison inmates and Medi-Cal enrollees.
   The VA provides health care to about 9 million veterans nationwide, including prescription drugs.  Federal upper limits are imposed on the prices the VA pays for drugs and often additional discounts are negotiated achieving even lower prices.  
   The VA maintains a public database listing the prices it pays for most drugs.  However, the database may not display the lowest prices paid for some drugs because of confidentiality.
   If Prop 61 passes, there is a potential for the state to realize a reduction in drug costs, but the amount of savings is uncertain due to the lack of visibility to the VA price database.
   A YES vote on Prop 61 means you want to prohibit state agencies from paying more for a prescription drug than the lowest price paid by the VA for the same drug after all discounts are factored in.  Prop 61 does not apply to the managed care portion of the Medi-Cal system, which serves 75 percent of Medi-Cal patients.
   A NO vote on Prop 61 means you do not want these changes made to prescription drug price regulations for the state.
   As of September 14, $9.5 million was donated to support Prop 61 and $86.6 million to oppose it. Donations to support Prop 61 are from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, California for Lower Drug Prices, and the California Nurses Association.  Money in opposition is from Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Abbvie, Sanofi-Aventis,    AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Glead Sciences, Allergan, and Glzxosmithkline.
    People who support Prop 61 say it fights price gouging from drug companies and saves taxpayers money.    
   People who oppose Prop 61 say it would increase red tape, lawsuits, and may raise prices for veterans.