Political Notebook

California drug price initiative leads early in poll, but many still undecided

Michael Weinstein, left, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, locks arms with others in Los Angeles on Friday, July 18, 2014 at a memorial for the former president of the International AIDS Society. Weinstein is pushing Proposition 61, the drug pricing initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Michael Weinstein, left, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, locks arms with others in Los Angeles on Friday, July 18, 2014 at a memorial for the former president of the International AIDS Society. Weinstein is pushing Proposition 61, the drug pricing initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot. AP

A California initiative to impose price controls on state drug purchases heads into the fall campaign with support from a majority of likely voters, though more than a third have yet to make up their minds, according to a new poll Friday.

Reflecting growing frustration with rising drug prices, the statewide Field-IGS Poll found 50 percent support for Proposition 61, an initiative funded by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Just 16 percent said they planned to oppose the measure while 34 percent remain undecided.

With ample funding on both sides – including about $15 million from proponents – the expected barrage of ads could help determine the outcome.

 

Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll, noted the lack of voters taking the “no” side. He said while voters are “instinctively inclined” to take some action against rising prescription drug prices, “the question becomes, ‘does this really do it, and in what way?’ 

Proposition 61 would restrict the state government from spending more on prescription drugs than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The proposal exempts managed-care programs funded through Medi-Cal. Supporters argue it will have a cascade effect on drug prices generally.

The measure is being targeted by drugmakers, which so far have bankrolled its opposition to the tune of nearly $87 million. They contend the proposal could actually increase drug costs for the state and veterans who currently receive discounts.

DiCamillo said uncertainty over how much money the measure may save the state is contributing to the large undecided bloc.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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