South Dakota drug prices ballot measure won’t be rewritten

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s Supreme Court this week rejected a push from the pharmaceutical industry to require the state attorney general rewrite his explanation of a measure that would cap the price state agencies could pay for prescription drugs.

The high court denied a legal challenge filed last year by South Dakota Biotech and Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA. They had asked the courts to direct Attorney General Marty Jackley to rewrite his statement, which will explain the question to November voters when they mark their ballots.

Initiative supporter Rick Weiland said in an email that the challenge was an attempt by the pharmaceutical industry to disrupt the will of the voters and their right to use the ballot question process to petition the government. He said Initiated Measure 26 would save the state “millions of dollars and curtail the drug industry’s price gouging practices.”

A PhRMA spokeswoman referred questions about the court ruling to the campaign opposing the ballot measure. That group didn’t immediately return an email requesting comment from The Associated Press.

The trade groups argued in court documents that the explanation falls short because it doesn’t adequately inform voters about the measure’s purpose, effect and legal consequences. They claimed in part that it doesn’t mention language in the measure giving supporters legal standing if the initiative is challenged in court.

In a ruling filed Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that “explanations cannot be set aside merely because they could be better.”

Jackley has said that he worked to provide a fair, clear and simple summary of the proposal. The first sentence reads: “This measure limits the amount that a State agency may pay for a prescription drug.”

The initiative is set to appear on South Dakota’s November ballot. The plan — adapted from an Ohio measure voters rejected in 2017 — would prohibit state agencies from paying more than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs.

The state spent more than $63 million last budget year on prescription drugs, with the majority of that for state health plan members and Medicaid recipients, according to Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office.

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