DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Commercials have already started for a November state-wide ballot initiative called the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, or Issue 2.
In a recent survey, most people said they don't really know what Issue 2 is, though, despite $22 million in campaign contributions.
The ballot initiative is intended to only allow the state to buy prescription drugs at the lowest price that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays for those drugs. The VA gets big discounts on drugs for a variety of reasons, deeper discounts than the state receives for the same drug in some cases.
Dennis Willard, the spokesperson for Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices, the campaign in favor of the initiative, said that they estimate the ballot measure would save taxpayers about $400 million a year if the state pays VA prices.
"This system works, it works for the VA, the VA is paying fair prices for these drugs. Ohioans are now paying excessive prices for these drugs so if the VA pays a dollar for that pill then Ohio should pay a dollar for the pill," said Willard.
The campaign in favor of the initiative, so far, according to campaign funding filings with the Ohio Secretary of State, has been funded completely by the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Willard said that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation does have offices in Cleveland and Columbus.
The campaign against the initiative, Ohioans Against the Deceptive RX Ballot Issue, is funded mostly by the pharmaceutical industry. The spokesperson for that campaign, Dale Butland, said that the ballot initiative may do the opposite of what it says it will do.
"There are seven million Ohioans, about 64 percent of the state's population, who don't get their drugs through the state programs they get it through private insurance, insurance provided by employers, Medicaid for example is not covered under this anyway, so if this thing were workable and if the drug companies were forced to sell to the state like any other business they make that up by raising prices for those of us who aren't covered by this which is the majority of people of our state," said Butland.
Cleveland 19 reached out to a professor, who is not a lobbyist for either side, to get a more unbiased analysis of what the ballot initiative could mean.
Mariana Carrera, an assistant professor of economics at Case Western Reserve University, said that there are a lot of variables at this point and it's difficult to predict exactly what will happen if it passes.
"I think I certainly agree with the average Ohioans that drug prices seem too high and it seems like pharmaceutical companies can charge whatever they want, so this measure certainly appeals to that emotional sentiment that we want to pay lower prices for our drugs but I think this measure goes about it in a complex way that is not at all obvious how it will pan out and how it will affect the taxpayer or how it will affect the person who's not getting their drugs paid for by the state of Ohio but by a private insurance plan," said Carrera. "It strikes me as a measure that's too unpredictable to get behind. I would be skeptical that it would end up benefiting the taxpayer the way that the proponents think it would and that makes me a little wary to back a measure that would require a lot of bureaucratic hassle."
For more information in favor: www.ohio4lowerdrugprices.com/
For more information against: www.deceptiverxissue.org