Proposition 61, also known as the “California Drug Price Relief Act,” was an initiative created to decrease the excessively high prices that individuals are forced to pay for prescription medications. If the proposition had been passed into law, California residents would have been able to obtain prescription drugs for the same price as the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
During the election on November 8, 2016, however, residents of California voted in opposition of Proposition 61. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office for The California Legislature’s Nonpartisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor, this opposition means that state agencies will “continue to be able to negotiate the prices of, and pay for, prescription drugs without reference to the prices paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”
The reason that the proposition compared prices to those paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is due to the fact that, as the only the government agency that is allowed to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, the VA pays the lowest prices. An article written by Lydia Ramsey for Business Insider reports, “The VA gets a discount of about 24% off traditional drug prices, and the agency can negotiate further discounts on top of that.”
As such, it seems as though voting in favor of Proposition 61 would make sense. However, opponents of the proposition argued that, should it pass into law, it could potentially cause pharmaceutical companies to raise the price of the drugs they are selling in general, including increasing the cost for the VA.
Why Does it Matter?
The amount of money that Americans are paying for prescription medications continues to increase, with many individuals having to pay those costs out-of-pocket. In another article written by Ramsey for Business Insider, she reports that the amount of money that Americans spent on prescription medications in 2016 “rose 7% over 2015, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Ramsey went on to note that this increase is the largest that has occurred in the past 24 years.
Due to the fact that pharmaceutical companies thrive on the billions of dollars that they receive from individuals who are buying medications, they made a significant effort to stop Proposition 61 from passing into law in California. This effort included $109 million being spent by the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, which The New York Times reports is “the most money raised for or against any of the 17 statewide ballot initiatives this year.”
Their efforts proved successful.
The failure of Proposition 61 to pass into law has an obvious negative effect on the general population who is in need of prescription medications to treat legitimate medical ailments. Individuals in Scotts Valley and throughout the rest of California may face the potential of prescription drugs continuing to increase, and those who need these medications and currently struggle to pay for them may face greater struggles should the prices continue to increase.
Yet, there is one benefit that can be found in the Proposition 61’s failure to become law. If the prices of prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, were drastically reduced, they could become more easily accessible to individuals who abuse them for recreational purposes. With the current state of the opioid epidemic in the United States, a decrease in prices could ultimately serve to allow those addicted to these powerful substances to more easily feed their habit. Similarly, with an abundance of prescription medications being available at relatively low costs, it is probable that more individuals may begin abusing the substances.