Only a few hours remain before Ohioans head to the polls to vote on Issue 2: The Drug Price Relief Act. Many people say they're still confused and don't know how to vote.
A major concern is whether we'll be footing the legal bills for the California CEO who is behind the ballot measure. What we found, is that given how contentious this issue is, and how much money and muscle is going into trying to defeat it, there is nothing unreasonable or illegal when it comes to how this measure would be defended if the voters approved it.
"Ohioans could foot enormous legal bills."
That is just one of the claims made in commercials by the people against Issue 2, or Ohioans Against The Deceptive RX Ballot Issue.
They’ve made a big deal about part of the ballot language which requires the State to pay attorney fees and expenses to individuals to defend the law.
What those commercials don't say is that the State Attorney General already defends our laws if they're challenged, unless they're found to be unconstitutional. The Office of the Attorney General sent us an email confirming that.
Attorney Pat Perotti of Dworken & Bernstein explains it this way: "The Attorney General will defend it, but this guy (the California Healthcare CEO supporting the issue) says I want to be in the room and make sure we're doing it right. Because if we pass it, we darn well better stand up for it. And that's all the provision says.”
And truth be told, the State will very likely have to defend Issue 2 if it passes. That’s because the big pharmaceutical companies who oppose it...because it will hurt their profits...will probably sue. Even their spokesperson Dale Butland admits that.
“I will tell you that everyone who has looked at this is certain this will lead to a tsunami of lawsuits," he said.
And the number one target will be healthcare CEO Michael Weinstein who is backing Issue 2. But the ballot language puts him on the hook as well. He would have to pay $10,000 of his own money if the law is found to be unenforceable.
“Big Pharma can't turn around to this guy and say OK, now you should pay us ten million in our fees. This just puts a limit on it,” says attorney Perotti.
Butland counters, "If you think a $10,000 civil penalty if they lose would come anywhere close to covering those legal fees, then I have a bridge I’d like you to buy in Brooklyn."
And he’s probably right. But only because big Pharma will likely spend millions to fight it. Which takes us to the question of, why is Weinstein pushing the issue?
Commercials from the pharmaceutical companies say it’s because his “billion dollar organization makes 80% of its money selling drugs.”
And that is also true. Weinstein runs the non-profit Aids Healthcare Foundation.
But it provides "low cost" medications and treatments to about 750,000 people worldwide, including, to patients right here in Ohio. Patients who wouldn't otherwise have access.
In a phone interview, Michael Weinstein told us "Ohioans are suffering and dying because of the greed of these companies. That is a simple undeniable fact."
And he defended himself against attacks that he supports Issue 2, and files lawsuits against government agencies for his own profit.
While he did sue Ohio, it was because he thought they purposely delayed getting the Issue on the ballot last year. But he also sues to get lower prices from drug makers.
Weinstein told us, "Issue 2 is really a very simple choice. If you feel that drug prices are too high, vote Yes.”
If you want to learn more about the issue, I conducted extensive interviews with the people for and against the issue. We put the unedited versions below.
Interview with Dennis Willard, Spokesperson for Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices
Interview with Dale Butland, Spokesperson for Ohioans Against the Deceptive RX Ballot Issue
Phone Interview with Michael Weinstein CEO of Aids Healthcare Foundation/Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices