The battle to give uninsured Californians access to cheaper prescription drugs has evolved into the most expensive initiative campaign in state history. The pharmaceutical industry has raised $80 million to defeat Proposition 79, which would force companies to discount drugs for uninsured Californians.
Consumer groups and labor unions, meanwhile, have raised $10 million to promote Proposition 79, which would provide discounted drugs to uninsured Californians with incomes of up to four times the federal poverty level.
Analysts said the drug industry fears that other states will follow California's lead if Proposition 79 passes, potentially costing companies millions in profits. Under the initiative, pharmaceutical companies that don't offer discounts could see their drugs dropped from a lucrative list of prescription medicines that doctors can prescribe to Medi-Cal patients without obtaining approval from the state. Unapproved drugs could be reimbursed only after filing paperwork and getting permission from the state.
Led by its lobbying outfit, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry is supporting a competing measure that would make such a discount program voluntary. The measure, Proposition 78, would not punish companies declining to participate and would provide discounted drugs to uninsured Californians with incomes of up to three times the federal poverty level.