Poll shows tight con­test for Cal­i­for­nia drug price ini­tia­tive

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

CAL­I­FOR­NIA: The bat­tle to con­vince Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers to ap­prove a bal­lot ini­tia­tive aimed at curb­ing pre­scrip­tion drug prices ap­pears to be tight­en­ing as the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try steps up its at­tacks, ac­cord­ing to poll re­sults re­leased on Fri­day. The Cal­i­for­nia Drug Price Re­lief Act, also known as Propo­si­tion 61, would re­quire drug­mak­ers to give state-run health pro­grams dis­counts on med­i­ca­tions sim­i­lar to those pro­vided to the US De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs, which pays the low­est prices in the coun­try.

A sur­vey of nearly 1,500 reg­is­tered vot­ers con­ducted by the Field Poll and the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley at the end of Oc­to­ber found an even split, with 47 per­cent of vot­ers say­ing they would vote yes and 47 per­cent say­ing they would vote no on the mea­sure. The re­main­ing 6 per­cent were un­de­cided. A sim­i­lar poll con­ducted in Septem­ber showed 50 per­cent of vot­ers in fa­vor, 16 per­cent op­posed and 34 per­cent un­de­cided.

An­other early Septem­ber poll con­ducted by the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and the Los An­ge­les Times found that 66 per­cent of vot­ers ap­proved the mea­sure and 23 per­cent were op­posed. “In­vestors have been brac­ing for a con­tro­ver­sial and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous head­line risk,” RBC Cap­i­tal Mar­kets an­a­lyst Michael Yee told Reuters. “This is not nec­es­sar­ily a sim­ple price mea­sure. It may not ac­tu­ally work and could lead to over­all higher costs in the sys­tem.”

Op­po­nents of Propo­si­tion 61, led by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies like Pfizer Inc and Am­gen Inc, have raised nearly $110 mil­lion to stop its pas­sage ahead of Tues­day’s vote. The “No on Prop 61” coali­tion has stepped up its tele­vi­sion and print ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns in re­cent days. Many of the ads fea­ture veter­ans ex­press­ing worry that pas­sage of the bal­lot mea­sure will in­crease their drug costs if drug­mak­ers re­spond by lim­it­ing dis­counts to the VA.

Sup­port­ers of the propo­si­tion, in­clud­ing the Aids Health­care Foun­da­tion and AARP, which ad­vo­cates for se­niors, have said the plan could save Cal­i­for­nia tax­pay­ers up to $5.7 bil­lion over 10 years, al­though a state leg­isla­tive anal­y­sis said the fi­nan­cial im­pact is not clear. For­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bernie San­ders, who has called on Cal­i­for­ni­ans to ap­prove Propo­si­tion 61, plans to be in the state to stump for the mea­sure start­ing on Sun­day.

Yee said in­vestors are likely to re­main ner­vous head­ing into next week given the in­her­ent risks in the wider elec­tion, which in­cludes the US pres­i­den­tial race, as well as Se­nate and House con­tests. They have also ex­pressed con­cern over Propo­si­tion 61’s po­ten­tial to curb drug­maker prof­its, par­tic­u­larly if it be­comes a tem­plate for ac­tion in other states.

At the same time, RBC ex­pects some­thing of a “re­lief rally” for in­dus­try share prices next Wed­nes­day, given the re­cent sell­off in health­care stocks. The Nasdaq Biotech­nol­ogy in­dex has fallen about 14 per­cent since mid-Septem­ber. The NYSE ARCA Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dex has dropped about 11 per­cent over the same pe­riod. Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump have both ad­vo­cated mea­sures to re­duce health­care costs. Clin­ton has been par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal of sharp in­creases in U.S. drug prices, promis­ing tougher over­sight, and any big gains for fel­low Demo­cratic can­di­dates in Congress could strengthen her hand in that cause.

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