Addressing the confusion around Issue 2

By Dr. Robert Ruff

There’s been a lot said about Issue 2, the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, and I know there is still a lot of confusion around it, but we can be clear about one thing. Big drug companies want Ohioans to vote no on this issue. They want it to be defeated because they know it will impact their profits. They also know that if Ohio takes the lead on this and passes it in November that other states will soon follow suit.

During my medical career, I served as the National Director of Neurology for the Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs. I know the American health care system. I know how it’s broken. That’s why I’m voting yes for Issue 2, the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act.

And to be sure, I’m not being paid or compensated in any manner by this campaign or pressured into doing so. I passionately believe that people need to be able to get the medications they need at reasonable prices. I doubt all those who speak for the opposition on this issue can say the same.

The ballot language for Issue 2 is simple: allow Ohio to pay no more for drugs than the VA pays. It will lower drug prices for millions of Ohioans, including 164,000 children, save taxpayers millions of dollars, and tell the drug companies and their CEOs that we’re done with putting profits above people’s lives and health.

And you know what? Drug companies are scared. That’s why they’re pouring millions of dollars into advertising to confuse and deceive people. That’s why they’re hiding behind a bogus non-profit that was set up just a couple months ago, specifically to fund their campaign in Ohio, instead of being transparent about who’s donating the money.

Costs of medications are skyrocketing and consumers are left with no real options. If a consumer thinks one brand of car is too expensive, they can shop for another model. With medications, we’re forced to pay whatever the price is because our health and lives depend on it. The pricing of treatments for severe illnesses do not follow usual economics models where introducing a cheaper to produce product would lower prices.

A few years ago, dimethylfumarate (DMF) was introduced as an oral treatment to reduce multiple sclerosis attacks. The components are cheap and the synthesis is simple. The competing injectable treatments cost $50,000 a year. Instead of being sold at a much lower price, DMF was introduced at $50,000 a year. The newer, cheaper agent did not lower the cost of competition, instead it bolstered the price. Today DMF and injected alternatives cost about $80,000.

If you have multiple sclerosis or any other host of health issues that require medication, it’s often your money or your life. Pharma sets prices to maximize profit. And right now, the rules are rigged to benefit them. Not you. Without restraints Pharma can charge exorbitant prices, and will continue to do so unless we take a stand.

Of course, the drug companies don’t want the status quo to change—that’s why they’re panicking and deploying scare tactics. Their threatening TV ads blanketing the airwaves are an effort to stop Issue 2 because it is an obvious threat to their profits. Don’t believe for a minute the million dollar ads being paid for by the drug companies. Keep following the money and that will easily lead you to many of the groups who oppose this issue.

To those who argue the idea is unworkable, look at the VA. There’s no reason that Ohio cannot do what the VA has done for years— as established by President George H. W. Bush and Congress – work with drug companies to ensure that patients are not being charged hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a drug that costs less than ten dollars to produce.

And to those who say this measure will result in more expensive drugs—isn’t that up to the drug companies? There are countries all over the world with measures in place to control the prices of prescription drugs. Why should Americans have to pay more for drug prices than those in Asia, Europe, South America, or Canada? And, why should we accept the threat that drug companies will raise prices in Ohio because we push back? Why do we accept this? Why is it OK giving into these profit-hungry bullies?

And really, drug companies have been raising prices on consumers for years. Ever hear of the EpiPen? They certainly don’t need our help to encourage them to raise prices.

The status quo is not working for us. It’s time we take a stand.

During this campaign, you’re going to continue to hear a lot of arguments—from both sides. But, it’s important to think about motivation.

A yes vote will lower drug prices for millions of Ohioans. A yes vote will save taxpayers $400 million a year that could be used for schools, roads, or our first responders. A yes vote will make Ohio the leader in reducing drug prices for healthcare reform, something that Washington, D.C. politicians currently are incapable of doing. And a yes vote is the only way we patients can send a message to the drug companies once and for all.

That’s why I am voting yes on Issue 2. I hope you’ll do the same.

By Dr. Robert Ruff

Dr. Ruff is a Professor Emeritus in Neurology and Neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University and Chairman of the Medical Scientific Advisory Board of the non-profit Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America. His position with the MGFA is voluntary and uncompensated.

Dr. Ruff is a Professor Emeritus in Neurology and Neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University and Chairman of the Medical Scientific Advisory Board of the non-profit Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America. His position with the MGFA is voluntary and uncompensated.