Backing a citizen-led initiative to combat soaring drugs prices in California, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Tuesday endorsed a ballot proposal designed to curb what he described as a corporate "rip-off" of the state's sick and vulnerable.
"It is no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry has already dedicated $50 million to defeat this ballot initiative. Their greed has no end. Enough is enough! Drug companies shouldn’t be allowed to make billions of dollars in profits off of people with cancer and AIDS who are in desperate need of lifesaving drugs. I hope very much that this ballot initiative passes." —Bernie Sanders"While Congress has failed to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, the people of California can by supporting this ballot initiative," Sanders said while campaigning in the state on Tuesday.
Called the California Drug Price Relief Act, the measure in question, as described by the San Francisco Chronicle, "would restrict California health programs from paying more for prescription drugs than what’s paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs." Given the enormous leverage of the VA, those drug prices are often the lowest available anywhere in the nation.
Backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the National Nurses United (NNU), and Californians for Lower Drug Prices campaign, voters will have a chance to vote on the initiative in November after supporters collected more than half a million signatures to get it on the ballot.
Mike Roth, a spokesman for Californians for Lower Drug Prices, has called the proposal "the most comprehensive drug price reduction initiative" California has put before voters in more than a decade and a very real opportunity to combat the "greed" of Big Pharma.
"We know that the VA pays considerably less than retail prices for prescription drugs. The people of California and all Americans should get the same price," Sanders said Tuesday. "Americans living with HIV/AIDS and cancer should not live in fear that they will go bankrupt because of the outrageously high cost of their prescription drugs."
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation argues the measure would save taxpayers approximately $5.7 billion over 10 years. As of March 8, the Foundation had raised more than $4.3 million for its campaign committee, Californians for Lower Drug Prices, according to MapLight.org, a nonpartisan research organization.
Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which opposes the measure, raised about $49 million for its committee, Californians Against the Misleading Rx Measure.
With the two sides having raised a combined $53.3 million almost eight months before the election, the initiative is already among the top 20 most expensive state ballot measures in the past 15 years.
"It is no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry has already dedicated $50 million to defeat this ballot initiative," Sanders said in his statement. "Their greed has no end. Enough is enough! Drug companies shouldn’t be allowed to make billions of dollars in profits off of people with cancer and AIDS who are in desperate need of lifesaving drugs. I hope very much that this ballot initiative passes."