U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS DEALS BLOW TO BIG PHARMA, SAYS ITS DRUG PRICES ARE INDEED PUBLIC, NOT SECRET
Advocates Say Another Drug Industry Lie to Californians Has Been Exposed
SACRAMENTO – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) has dealt a significant blow to the centerpiece of the pharmaceutical industry’s attacks on the California drug-price reduction measure, initiative proponents announced today.
In response to a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Californians for Lower Drug Prices, the DVA affirmed that the prices it pays for prescription drugs for the millions of veterans it serves are freely public and that it knows of no exceptions. (FOIA response attached.)
The initiative, which will appear on the November ballot, requires the state of California to pay no more for drugs than is paid by the DVA for the same drugs. The prices paid by DVA, which it has the power to negotiate with the drug companies, are widely considered to be the lowest of any federal agency. For example, the VA pays only $440 per pill for the hepatitis C cure Sovaldi, less than half the more than $1,000 per pill drugmaker Gilead charges the rest of the country.
One of Big Pharma’s arguments has been that such negotiated prices are secret, and therefore the initiative cannot be implemented. “This blows apart big Pharma’s entire argument against our measure,” said Roger Salazar, a spokesperson for the campaign. “From the beginning, the drug industry’s claim has been that our measure can’t be implemented because the DVA keeps those prices confidential. The DVA itself has not only contradicted that, but also exposed the fact that this is actually a fabrication completely made up by the drug industry itself.”
The drug industry campaign has also suggested the industry will seek to simply raise the prices it charges DVA if California voters pass the drug-pricing measure. But it is a threat Big Pharma cannot unilaterally make good on, since the DVA discount program is required by federal law and the law also caps DVA drug prices.
Shawn Terris, California Democratic Party Veterans Caucus Chair, a former U.S. Marine and a supporter of the measure, said she hopes the news will be a signal to veterans that they are being lied to be the drug industry. “This proposition is good for California. Good for taxpayers. Good for veterans,” Terris said. “It pains me to see fellow veterans being used as pawns by the drug industry and threatened with higher drug prices. The fact is that Big Pharma is required by federal law to offer reduced prices to DVA, they’re not doing it out of benevolence. We’re just trying to get reduced prices at the state level for all Californians.”