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Frommer's prescription drug bills get vetoed

October 01, 2004

Robert Chacon

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday vetoed two bills by

Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) meant to lower the cost of

prescription drugs for Californians.

Frommer's bills were in response to the skyrocketing cost of

prescription drugs in the U.S. and sought to allow Californians to

buy their drugs from Canadian pharmacies. Schwarzenegger, instead,

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sought to tout his own plan, which he said would also lower the cost

of prescription drugs.

Frommer's bills would have given the state power to look in to how

much it could save if various state agencies purchased drugs from

Canada, and set up a consumer website with information on prices of

Canadian drugs and links to California-certified pharmaceutical

companies there. His bills would also have authorized the California

Public Employee's Retirement System to join with other public and

private groups in order to cut costs by purchasing drugs in bulk from

U.S. companies.

"Today was a big test of the governor's rhetoric versus his

actions," Frommer said. "He had an opportunity to help Californians

save on prescription drugs and he sided with the prescription drug

industry, which has given him more in political contributions than

any other politician except President Bush."

The vetoes came as no surprise to Frommer, who was notified by the

governor in August that his bills would be vetoed unless they were

significantly amended.

Schwarzenegger said in a statement that Frommer's bills, AB 1957

and 1958, would have undermined his efforts to develop and implement

a California State Pharmacy Assistance Program, which would secure

lower prescription costs for the elderly and uninsured through the

Department of Health Services.

According to the statement, Schwarzenegger has already begun

negotiating with pharmaceutical companies regarding their

participation in the program. He has received commitments by some

companies to join the program, but others have balked, according to

the statement.

The governor's program, however, would not maximize savings to

consumers, Frommer said.

"The prices under his program would still be 30 to 50% more than

Californians can get under my bill," Frommer said, adding that he

thinks drug prices at Costco are lower than under the governor's

plan.

While one of Schwarzenegger's top priorities is to provide access

to affordable prescription drugs, he said in the statement, that

importing drugs from Canada or assisting residents to do so, such as

Frommer's bills attempted, violates federal law and could expose the

state to lawsuits.

But Frommer said that at least six other states -- Minnesota,

Wisconsin, North Dakota, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Illinois --

have set up websites similar to the one he proposed.

"The legislative council looked at this bill and found that it

doesn't violate federal law. Six other states are doing this and not

one of them has been shut down," Frommer said.

The website, he added, would simply have given information on

Canadian drugs, and told consumers which companies are certified by

the U.S., and would not have authorized the selling of Canadian drugs

on the site.

"We like to call him the exaggerator. He says a lot of things that

just aren't true," Frommer said of the governor. "In fact, his

misstatements are growing each day. This is not a movie set where you

can say what you want. You've got to get your facts straight."

Frommer said he has not decided if he will introduce the same

bills next year.

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