UnknownMany people need pharmaceutical drugs to survive. It’s not a choice. If they don’t get the medication they need, they will die. But even in the United States, the richest country on the planet, the wealthiest nation in the history of human civilization, many are unable to afford the medication they need. So they go without. And eventually, they die.

That’s the sobering reality and the shameful fact of the health care situation in America. Obviously there is progress to be made, and lives at stake.

So now, Ohio is one of two states in the country seeking to take the lead through their state’s initiative statute process to limit the price of prescription drugs sold in the state. California is the other.

A political action committee called Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices is organizing the efforts of passage in Ohio a new ballot initiative in Ohio.

The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act is a 2016 ballot measure that would require the state of Ohio to pay no more for prescription drugs than is paid for the same medication by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), which generally negotiates the lowest drug prices of any federal agency, including Medicaid.

The Drug Price Relief Act would limit the state of Ohio, in any case where state taxpayers are the ultimate payer, from paying more for any prescription drug than is paid for that same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).

Unlike Medicare, Veterans Affairs negotiates for drug prices on behalf of the nearly 22 million veterans it serves – and pays on average 20 percent to 24 percent less for medications than other government agencies, and up to 40 percent less than Medicare Part D.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is a California organization that operates pharmacies and testing centers in Ohio and is behind the introduction of the act and the petition filing and the formation of Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices.

The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act has been certified by county boards of elections with 96,935 valid signatures (91,677 were required) to move the act through Ohio’s initiative statute process. It was referred last month and is now pending for legislative consideration before the Ohio General Assembly.

If the legislature rejects or doesn’t act on the law within four months of Ohio Secretary of State referral, supporters can collect another 91,677 signatures to put the issue before voters in November.

This legislation would seem imminently reasonable and necessary, but of course the screwheads are at it again, folks, because the screwheads never quit.

A group of special interests against the measure have sought to invalidate portions of certified signatures and petitions with the goal of not having the act continue through the initiative statute process.

Opponents of the Ohio initiative include PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America), The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA), Ohio Pharmacists Association, Ohio Osteopathic Association, and Ohio Foot & Ankle Medical Association.

Meanwhile, multinational pharmaceutical conglomerates, already under fire for spending 19 times more on advertising than on research for cures, now spend more than $5.2 billion a year on advertising.

That does not include the $49 million they have already stockpiled to fund their campaign to keep drug prices high in California by defeating the California Drug Price Relief Act.

According to a recent report, Big Pharma ad spending parallels their excessive price increases, rising more than 60 percent in the last four years.

And where is that $5.2 billion targeted?

“The data reveals that marketing decisions are based on an effort to publicize promoting the drugs with the biggest potential customer base or the highest price tags — or both,” a recent study concluded.

One-quarter of the industry’s $5.2 billion in spending last year went to advertise just five drugs: Humira, which treats a number of common conditions, including arthritis; Lyrica, for nerve and muscle pain, including fibromyalgia; Eliquis, an anticoagulant that can reduce stroke risk in some patients; Cialis, the erectile dysfunction drug; and Xeljanz, for rheumatoid arthritis.

I think about Pfizer holding $35 billion in tax money offshore. I think about Purdue Pharma addicting the country to opioids by lying about the impacts of Oxycontin, leading directly to our current heroin crisis. I think about creepy little douchebags like Martin Shkreli pricing AIDS patients out of life-saving medication. And I wonder how our elected representatives sleep at night doing Big Pharma’s greedy bidding over our collective best interests.

Write your state legislators today, folks. Call their offices. Attend their office hours and let them know that being cowed by Big Pharma is disgraceful. They were elected to represent their constituents not the moneyed screwheads. Ohioans are dying from being priced out of prescription medicine access. Legislators are elected to represent the interests of dying Ohioans, not the profit-driven bottom line of Big Pharma.

David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. DeWitt is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt and on Facebook here.