No one in Ohio who has had to fill a prescription will be surprised to know that Americans pay about twice as much each year for pharmaceuticals as patients in other industrialized countries.
Who can forget the truly egregious cases of Big Pharma pricing? EpiPen prices that jumped to $300 each or the cost of blood-pressure medication digoxin ballooning more than 600 percent?
There is no question that prescription drug costs are often outrageous or that they cause consumers much physical and financial pain and grief. The only question is what public policy strategy is going to address the problem.
The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act (Issue 2), on the ballot on Tuesday, would require state government to pay no more for prescription drugs than the price paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which typically gets a discount of up to 24 percent.
The measure would apply to drugs the state of Ohio buys for about 4 million people. About 75 percent of those are on Medicaid. Others include people receiving workers’ compensation, along with state employees and state retirees.
Opponents of the initiative point out that it does not cover about two-thirds of Ohioans, including people with private insurance and others who do not get their drugs via a state-related program. The critics are right when they predict that drug companies are likely to try to hike the prices on drugs sold to those other 7 million Ohioans — in order to make up for any losses incurred thanks to Issue 2.
The drug companies — the ones largely funding the vote-no campaign in Ohio as they did a similar measure in California in 2016 — are, effectively, telling their customers that they will retaliate if the state votes to create any kind of price controls.
While it is logical to believe them, it is cowardly to give in to that kind of extortion.
It is all the more reason to stand up for ourselves.
What Issue 2 opponents are saying is something like this: You have to keep giving the school bully all your lunch money or he will make up the difference by extorting others.
The answer is not to give in to the bully, and what he might do, it is to stand up to him, generally, and on many fronts, and to urge others to do the same.
There is nothing written in the ballot measure that will increase drug prices, for anyone. That is something drug companies are threatening to do if voters take even this meager step to counter their power.
Issue 2 is not a perfect or a complete solution, but it is a small, respectable first step toward more reasonable drug prices, self-government, and the public’s self-respect.
The proposition is that state government, as a major buyer of pharmaceuticals, should be able to negotiate prices. It is hard to argue with this modest reform.
The Blade recommends a vote FOR Issue 2.
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