Prop D Targets Drug Prices
San Francisco voters will have a chance on Election Day, November 5, to weigh in on a ballot measure that would make it city policy for officials to continue to directly negotiate with drug manufacturers for cheaper prescription drug prices, including those used to treat HIV and AIDS.
The city purchases prescription drugs for medical programs it runs and spends over $23 million a year on the medications. Current law authorizes the health department to use outside companies to negotiate in order to ensure that the city gets the lowest possible prices.
If voters pass Proposition D, it would be city policy to "use all available opportunities to reduce the city’s cost of prescription drugs and to ask state and federal representatives to sponsor legislation to reduce drug prices paid by the government," according to the ballot pamphlet. The measure requires a simple majority to pass.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is based in Los Angeles but does work in Oakland and San Francisco, including its Out of the Closet thrift stores, is spearheading the Prop D campaign.
Officials with the nonprofit have said the measure was spurred by Gilead Sciences pricing Stribild, its recent four-in-one AIDS treatment, at $28,500 per patient, per year, more than the annual income of many people living with the disease. Requests for comment from Gilead weren’t immediately returned.
In a Friday, September 27 meeting with the Bay Area Reporter editorial board, Yes on D campaign manager John Baldo referred to "skyrocketing" drug prices.
Asked about what teeth the measure, which is a policy declaration, has, Baldo said, "This is not by any means a symbolic policy declaration."
"We wanted the city to have a mandate from voters" that residents want city officials, including the Board of Supervisors, to fight the high costs, he added. The hope is such a mandate would send a clearer message to drug companies than complaints from city government alone would.
Baldo said Prop D’s supporters are aware that pharmaceutical companies have to have money to pay for research and development and other costs, but "We want price controls to be talked about and discussed," he said.
AHF had to gather more than 9,000 valid signatures to get its measure on the ballot. Officials with the agency announced plans for the measure with a November 2012 news conference on the steps of City Hall. The nonprofit launched the action with little, if any, input from local elected officials.
Dale Gluth, AHF’s associate regional director for the Bay Area, said at the time that he hadn’t contacted any San Francisco supervisors specifically on this issue.
Tim Boyd, director of domestic policy for AHF, said last week that backers had approached city officials early, but "everyone told us, ’Come back when it’s certified.’"
Ten of the city’s 11 supervisors are now signed on as supporters of the measure. Baldo said proponents weren’t able to get District 11 Supervisor John Avalos’s signature in time.