Backers of an Ohio ballot initiative addressing inflated drug prices have criticized the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a drug industry trade group, for filing a lawsuit to block the ballot initiative from even appearing on the November 2016 ballot. The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio (Case # 2016-313) challenging The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, a citizen-driven ballot initiative that will revise Ohio law to require state programs pay no more than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription medications. V.A. pricing is generally believed to be 20% to 24% lower than for almost any other government program.
“This is a desperate move by the pharmaceutical industry and the special interests who support them to keep Ohioans from voting on a proposed law that would dramatically lower prescription drug costs for consumers,” said Don McTigue, an attorney with McTigue & Colombo in Columbus who has been working on behalf of the ballot initiative supporters. “In addition, regarding claims made in PhRMA’s lawsuit: PhRMA is wrong about the laws governing citizen petitions. On Feb. 4, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted determined that the initial ballot petition was valid and that it contained sufficient valid signatures of Ohio registered voters—96,936—from all across Ohio. As such, and as required under Ohio’s Constitution, Secretary Husted transmitted the proposed law to the General Assembly for its consideration. PhRMA has now waited 25 days before filing this action, causing prejudice to the petition committee and undue delay. Further, it is unclear whether they have even filed in the correct court.”
“This lawsuit is an act of desperation by PhRMA and its well paid minions, and a clear indication that the pharmaceutical industry knows that they simply cannot win their case on drug pricing with the public at the polls in November,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the primary financial supporter of the Ohio initiative as well as a similar drug pricing measure in California. “As drug pricing is shaping up to be one of the most potent presidential campaign issues this year, we urge the Ohio legislature to quickly bring the ballot initiative language to the floor for an up or down vote so that we may then collect the next round of signatures necessary to put this initiative before voters in November.”
Backers of the drug pricing initiative submitted 116,015 voter signatures, more than the 91,677 needed to qualify the initiative. Ohio’s General Assembly has four months to consider and act on the measure—until June 3. If they take no action or vote it down, backers of the measure must again collect the same number of signatures (91,677) to put the measure before voters in November.