California votes down drug spending bill

California voted down a ballot initiative to tackle the rising costs of prescription drugs, reports Reuters.

The California Drug Price Relief Act, or Proposition 61, would prevent the state from paying more than the Department of Veteran Affairs spends for the same drugs. The VA receives the largest drug discounts in the country, according to the report.

As of Wednesday morning — with 99 percent of precincts partially reporting — the vote was 46 percent in support of Prop 61 and 54 percent opposed, according to California's Secretary of State.

Drug companies like Pfizer and Amgen largely opposed the ballot measure, spending around $106 million to lobby against the proposition. They argued it would only benefit 12 percent of Californians and put the other 88 percent of residents — and veterans across the U.S. — at risk for higher drug costs, reports Reuters.

Proponents of Prop 61, led by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and AARP, raised $17 million to support the ballot measure and argued only drug companies hold the power to raise prices for veterans and consumers. They estimated the measure could save California taxpayers up to $5.7 billion over 10 years, although state legislative analysis indicated unclear financial impacts, according to the report.

"The pharmaceutical companies spent a lot to defeat this," said Stuart Schweitzer, professor of health policy and management at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health. "They wanted to draw a line in the sand."

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