- The Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) on Monday filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court of Ohio challenging the signatures on a ballot initiative which seeks to lower drug prices.The Ohio Secretary of State recently deemed the initiative valid after it had garnered the sufficient number of signatures to appear on the November 2016 ballot.
- PhRMA went to court over the petition because the measure would revise Ohio law, requiring state programs to pay no more than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription medications. Typically, the VA pays around 20% to 24% less than average manufacturer prices, according to Stat.
- Ohio’s General Assembly has until June 3 to consider and act on the measure. If there is no action or the petition is voted down, supporters must re-collect signatures for the measure.
On February 4, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted declared the ballot measure valid after determining the initial petition contained a sufficient number of Ohio registered voters. Prompted by complaints from PhRMA, Husted had already asked for several reviews of the petition's signatures.
PhRMA initially challenged the validity of the 171,000 signatures on the petition but a review validated nearly 97,000 signatures—well above the 91,677 signatures required in Ohio for the measure to appear on November's ballot. (That requirement is calculated as 3% of the total vote cast for the office of governor in the last election.)
The suit alleges irregularities among the signatures, including false permanent residence addresses and unlawful alterations on part-petitions.
Michael Weinstein, the President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), characterized PhRMA's decision to file suit as desperate.
"This lawsuit is an act of desperation by Pharma and its well paid minions and a clear indication that the pharmaceutical industry knows that they simply cannot win their case on drug pricing with the public at the polls in November," said Weinstein. AHF is one of the primary financial supporters of the measure.
The ballot initiative is one of several tactics recently employed to push back on rising U.S. drug prices. The AHF has spearheaded similar legislation in California which qualified for the November ballot despite significant opposition from the pharmaceutical industry. According to the California Secretary of State, drugmakers have contributed nearly $50 million in an effort to combat the measure.