Earlier, we gave you the background on the Drug Price Relief Act or Issue 2. It's designed to lower prescription drug prices in Ohio and will be on the ballot this November.
Sounds like a great idea. But critics say it could actually raise prices.
Who's telling the truth?
Well with all the ads going back and forth, everyone's been telling me they don't how to vote. So, we looked at the major claims being made and asked the people behind them to make their case. It's turned into a 15-round boxing match. But hopefully this will help you pick a winner.
The number of claims are dizzying. But let's start with two of the facts: What’s on the ballot and who’s battling over it.
Issue 2 requires state agencies to pay no more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. By law, the VA gets a 24% discount off the average wholesale price of a given drug.
The issue is sponsored by Ohio Taxpayers For Lower Drug Prices. It’s funded by a California non-profit that provides HIV and AIDS care and which has donated $6 million dollars for this fight.
Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich and Nina Turner are the major supporters, but there are no media endorsements.
“There are also two hundred thousand people in Ohio who signed the petition to put this on the ballot,” says Dennis Willard, from Ohio Taxpayers For Lower Drug Prices.
The people against it, Ohioans Against The Deceptive RX Ballot Issue, are funded by the big drug companies which have donated more than $16 million dollars.
A lot of groups back their side and they’re endorsed by the major local newspapers.
"We have a coalition of 41 different organizations that are comprised of doctors, nurses, veterans, the business community, organized labors, and so on. In fact, there are 30 thousand nurses, doctors, and pharmacists who are a part of our coalition," says Dale Butland from Ohioans Against The Deceptive RX Issue
So, what are they fighting over?
Supporters say if the state pays the same rates as the VA, drug prices for 4 million Ohioans and 160,000 children, many of whom are on Medicaid, would go down. And they add that would save the state and taxpayers $400 million dollars a year.
"If the VA is paying a dollar for a pill that we are paying ten dollars for in the State of Ohio, then we will pay a dollar for that pill,” says Willard.
The opposition says any possible savings will have zero impact on the 7 million Ohioans who have private insurance.
“The experts who have studied this have said, not only will this not fix the problem, but it is going to make it worse,” Butland says.
I pointed out, that the seventy-four page expert analysis was paid for by the drug companies.
"If you're suggesting the analysis is biased as a result of that, I would simply say then, where's the other guys analysis?” asked Butland.
Well the other guy does have an analysis. It was written by the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western, which says the only reason the drug companies are fighting this is, because they know it will reduce profits.
And that brings us to the second claim, that not only could drug prices for regular Ohioans increase, but for Veterans as well.
“They don't have any incentive anymore to do the additional discounts,” said Butland.
“I'd like to know which manufacturers are going to come out and say we're not giving the VA anymore discounts anymore because we have to give Ohio a lower price,” I asked.
“Danielle, I don’t know the drug companies. I don’t represent the drug companies. I don’t speak for the drug companies. I’m just telling you what the experts have said, he responded.
Supporters say, drug companies will never stop selling drugs to Ohio because of all the competition.
"They are making profits off the drugs they are selling to veterans right now and they will make profits off of Ohioans, just make less profits, because we are going to pay lower prices,” said Willard
There is one more controversial issue on the ballot that would require the state to pay the attorney fees for the ballot supporters. So look for our coverage on that issue prior to the election, where we'll lay out exactly what that means.