BayBio Policy Corner for Friday, March 15, 2013

San Francisco Supervisors Certify Drug Pricing Ballot Initiative

Earlier this month, San Francisco cleared the way for a first-in-the-nation drug pricing initiative to appear on the November ballot. The Prescription Drug Pricing initiative, called the “Stop Runaway Drug Pricing” initiative by its proponents, would make it City policy to use all available opportunities to reduce the price of prescription drugs. It would establish policy that the City directly negotiate with drug manufacturers and ask for San Francisco representatives in the California Assembly and Senate to sponsor legislation to reduce drug pricing by one-third. Current City law authorized the SF Public Health Department to use outside companies to negotiate prices. The city uses a federally selected company in order to remain eligible for certain federal programs that significantly reduce prescription drug prices.

The measure is sponsored by Los Angeles based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). AHF stressed the cost of medications and the compensation of some executives in their press materials, but failed to mention the long pathway for novel therapeutics to go from the laboratory to the market (averaging more than 10 years from discovery to approval and more than $10 billion in average investment.) San Francisco spends approximately $23 million each year on providing prescription drugs, with over $3.5 million of that going towards treatments for HIV and related conditions, as part of their Healthy SF program. While the ballot initiative has qualified for the November ballot, it does little more than codify current practice (San Francisco already negotiates prices as part of its Healthy SF program) and encourages activities of others. BayBio is committed to working with local policy makers to demonstrate the value of biomedical research to the economy and improving human health, as well providing education on product lifecycles and research costs.

Whole Foods Requires GMO Labeling

On March 8, Whole Foods grocery stores announced a new policy requiring all foods containing ingredients produced through agricultural technology to be labeled as such in order to be sold in its stores. The policy would be put in place in the company’s 339 stores in the U.S. and Canada in the next 5 years. BayBio strongly encouraged the successful defeat of Proposition 37 on the November 2012 ballot, which would have created a private right of action against retailers for failing to label food products as genetically modified.
However, we strongly support voluntary labeling of products to meet specific demands of consumers. This position is consistent with the labeling policy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the positions of the World Health Organization and American Medical Association, who have deemed GMO foods safe for consumption. For more information on this issue, please refer to BIO statement found here.

BayBio Participates in BIO Fly-In

BayBio traveled to Washington, DC this week for the annual BIO fly-in on Capitol Hill. Participants of the event spent the day meeting with Members of Congress and their staff to discuss the important legislative issues facing the biotechnology industry. Of key importance was the continuation of Medicare Part B & Medicare Part D, and funding of the NIH and FDA.

This year Northern California had a strong presence at the event, with BayBio CEO Gail Maderis, VP of Government Affairs Ritchard Engelhardt, and Policy Associate Mallori Merandino joined by BayBio Board Members, company representatives, and recipients of the small-company entrepreneur scholarships. In total, we met with eight Members of Congress, and a handful of other staff from the offices of California members. If you are interested in participating in future fly-in events, or for more information on this year’s BIO Fly-In, please email Mallori at

Upcoming Events

BayBio will travel to Chicago next month for the 20th annual BIO International Convention. More than 16,500 biotech leaders from 4,000 companies in 65 countries will gather to network and discuss important issues facing the industry. For more information and to register, please see BIO’s website here.
BayBioPAC is pleased to co-sponsor a fundraiser for Dr. Richard Pan, chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, in Sacramento on April 8th. Dr. Pan is preparing to run for the Senate and would like to have a strong showing of support when he has to report his funding in June. For more information, please contact Ritchard Engelhardt at