Drug price campaign starts

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A statewide campaign for passage of the Prescription Drug Fair Pricing Act (HB-290) was announced here Jan. 22. The legislation, the state senate draft of which is SB-127, is similar to that passed in Maine earlier this year.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Hagan, the bill would enable Ohioans without other effective coverage to purchase prescription drugs at a discount. The state, instead of drugstore chains, would deal with drug corporations to negotiate bulk discount purchases. Medications would then be sold directly to consumers without profit.

The Ohio AFL-CIO has worked for two years to generate grassroots support for this project.

Other supporters include the AARP, United Way and the Ohio Public Interest Research Group. In addition, hundreds of cities, counties, churches, social service agencies and fraternal orders have endorses this legislation.

The press conference to announce the campaign was co-chaired by Bill Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO president, and Athena Godet-Calageris, Universal Healthcare Network of Ohio.

Gwendolyn Hodge, a single mother of one, testified that she lost prescription coverage when she began working.

Peggy Nolan-Dwyer, of the Ohio Nurses Association, said many people cut corners with their prescription drugs by halving the dosage or taking daily medications every other day. She said that friends often share prescription drugs in order to make supplies last.

A spokesman for the firefighters organization said that as an EMT he sees first-hand the effects of inadequate prescription drug coverage.

Tim Stokes, Franklin County commissioner, spoke of the escalation of prescription drug costs. Seniors, disabled and children are the least able to bear the brunt of these costs. HB-290 and SB-127 would cover everyone.

Support for these bills is based in the Democratic northeast part of the state. The campaign will now focus on the largely Republican central and southern regions of Ohio.