December 2, 2022
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Proposition 61 will not cure sky high drug prices


Proposition 61 goes before California voters in just a few weeks.

And as the Business Times reported on Oct. 14, Amgen, the Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant, along with other major drug companies, is spending millions to oppose Proposition 61 and its plan to control drug prices.

Proponents promote the David vs. Goliath aspect of their plan. But a closer look shows that drug company opposition to Proposition 61 may not be driven by self-interest alone.

The state’s Legislative Analyst Office, CalPERS, medical professionals and health care advocates all have arrived at the same conclusion — no matter how good it sounds, the ballot measure is not likely to be an effective solution for spiraling prescription prices. Instead, it could have the opposite effect, costing consumers and taxpayers billions more each year.

Proposition 61 would mandate that California health programs pay the same or less than the often deeply-discounted prices paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA is a convenient benchmark because it is typically cited as having some of the nation’s lowest prices for drugs.

But linking California to VA pricing turns out to be a flawed policy proposal. The state’s legislative analysts say the savings can’t be quantified, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled Veterans Business Alliance and other veterans’ groups are opposed to the measure.

Even the VA itself has written about potential cost increases of as much as $3.8 billion a year if Proposition 61 passes. Consumers Union, one of the most powerful voices in the nation for drug price reform, has been silent on the measure as confusion reigns over its impact.

“There are a number of red flags,” said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the No Proposition 61 campaign, who pointed out via email that the executive of a Los Angeles-based AIDS foundation who authored the measure exempted his own group from the ballot initiative.

Many of the state’s major newspapers have taken positions opposed to Proposition 61, warning against unintended consequences. As an editorial in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat put it, “Casting a protest vote against Big Pharma might feel good, but it won’t get at the source of high costs, and it’s unlikely to deliver any real savings, but it may drive up costs.”

We recommend that voters in the Tri-Counties reject the murky promises of Proposition 61.

Sticking with the status quo

Over our 17 years of publication we’ve observed that continuity of leadership really matters — particularly in the higher education field.

That’s why we’re skeptical of an effort to unseat incumbents serving as trustees of Allan Hancock College, which serves the greater Santa Maria Valley area.

Hancock survived the recession without layoffs, it has raised millions of dollars for new programs and under President Kevin Walthers it has ambitious plans to bring four-year college degrees to North Santa Barbara County.

We’re going to stick with our tradition of not endorsing individual candidates but will warn that, based on past history in the region, putting candidates with personal agendas on the boards of our community colleges is an invitation to disaster.