Home Social Justice Ohio Secretary sends Drug Price Relief Act to General Assembly after monthlong delay

Ohio Secretary sends Drug Price Relief Act to General Assembly after monthlong delay

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Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted certified the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act on Thursday after a monthlong delay due to potential fraud, sending the controversial piece of legislation to Ohio’s General Assembly for debate.

The Drug Price Relief Act aims to lower the price of pharmaceuticals to Ohioans by setting a fixed rate that would require the state to purchase medications at prices at or lower than the rates paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs.   

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which created the proposed law, needed to obtain 91,677 signatures to be certified by the secretary of state in order to be sent to the General Assembly to be debated. The bill was delayed by Husted due to redacted signatures that were crossed out illegally by AHF, according to a press release from Husted’s office.  

I received a complaint that this petition drive was not conducted in accordance with Ohio law, I returned them to the boards of elections for further investigation and boards that investigated properly found evidence that Ohio laws were indeed violated,” Husted said in the press release. “While this evidence leads me to believe there may have been greater issues, I must make a decision based on the facts before me now.”

That decision was to invalidate the 35,753 crossed-out signatures on the petition, leaving the act with 96,936 signatures of its original 119,000. The act still met requirements of Ohio law, which led Husted to forward the act.

AHF, however, said Husted had no legal standing to delay the proposed law past Jan. 4 and claims he did so only to please a pharmaceutical law firm that donated $44,000 to his campaign.

“We are gratified that Secretary Husted finally transmitted the drug pricing ballot initiative to Ohio’s General Assembly; however, he had absolutely no legal standing under Ohio law to invalidate our signatures once they had been validated and revalidated by local election boards — nor to disqualify signatures in Cuyahoga County,” Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, said in a press release.

AHF, a Los Angeles-based organization that operates testing, medical and pharmaceutical facilities throughout the world and within Ohio, proposed a similar measure in California last year. The foundation has pursued legal action in the Ohio Supreme Court and in federal court in an attempt to ensure the measure is on the November ballot even after the one month delay, according to the press release.  

Tracy Jones, Executive Director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, said the changes in the proposed law are ones that Ohioans both want and need.

“In poll after poll, Americans continue to express their deep concerns about the exploding costs of health care and prescription drugs,” Jones said in a press release. “For people with chronic conditions including HIV, hepatitis and cancer who depend on their medications to stay alive, the urgent need to control high drug costs is more pressing than just a campaign slogan or simple policy discussion.”

Antonio Ciaccia, director of marketing and public affairs and a registered lobbyist for the Ohio Pharmacists Association, agreed that although there is an issue with spikes in drug prices,the Drug Price Relief Act is not the way to go about changing the system.  

“We have general concerns about any form of price controls within the pharmaceutical industry from the standpoint that you can’t bring drugs to market if there is no financial incentive for drugs to be created,” Ciaccia said.

Ciaccia said because it is the responsibility of the pharmacies to purchase the drugs initially; the act will only require that the government reimburse the amount paid by the VA usually a discounted amount leaving the pharmacies to foot the remainder of the bill.   

“You have pharmacies essentially shouldering the entire burden of the initiative,” Ciaccia said. “The problem with (the act) is that it does not specifically state that (the government) has to reimburse the pharmacy because they are ultimately the ones that have to buy the drug, not the government.”

If the General Assembly does not act on the plan within four months, the organization will only have one additional month to collect the signatures needed to get the act placed directly on the November ballot.

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