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Special Election

Written by on Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

In California’s November 8th Special Election, both measures on the ballot, which were of interest to the California biotech community, were defeated–Propositions 78 and 79.
The California Healthcare Institute (“CHI”), a biomedical industry advocacy group, provided this analysis of the results:

Both prescription drug initiatives lost by large margins. Prop. 78, sponsored by PhRMA and backed by Gov. Schwarzenegger and the business community, would have created a voluntary program for people with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. It lost by 17 percentage points. Prop. 79 was sponsored by organized labor, mainly as an attack on the governor and his supporters. It would have created a prescription drug program extending to 400 percent of federal poverty level, with company participation tied to Medi-Cal. It also featured an anti-profiteering clause that would have encouraged lawsuits against manufacturers who charge “unreasonable prices.” It was defeated by 22 percentage points. At the same time, voters rejected Prop. 80, which proposed to make energy cheaper by imposing new regulations on public utilities. . . . Propositions 78 and 79 confused voters because they seemed to differ less on substance than on technicalities. Most of the more than $80 million industry spent on these initiatives went toward defeating Prop. 79. Still, in an election in which no initiative passed, and in which the governor’s support was unpersuasive, it is uncertain whether Prop. 78, on its own, could have garnered voter approval.

The defeat of Prop. 78 means that the underlying problem of access to drugs for low-income Californians awaits a solution. The Legislature is likely to revisit drug importation and various kinds of price controls in 2006.

BIOCOM, the biotech industry group which had strongly opposed Proposition 79, provided its own analysis of the special election results in its recent newsletter.

Regardless of their reasons, California voters have clearly spoken and elected to send lawmakers back to the drawing board. Californians will have to wait and see if lawmakers can come up with a better solution for dealing with providing better access to drugs for low-income Californians. As someone who moved to California from out-of-state and who has personally experienced some of the same access issues on a higher income salary, however, I cannot help but wonder if this is the kind of problem that can really be resolved by lawmakers alone. It seems to me that the problem is more complicated than that and will require more than a simple legislative fix to resolve the issue.

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