October 10, 2016
by John Wildermuth
Bernie Sanders, the progressive Vermont senator last seen in California challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, is on the airwaves again. This time he’s pushing voters to support Proposition 61, which would set a cap on what pharmaceutical companies could charge the state for the drugs it purchases.
“The time is long overdue for the American people too stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders says in the 30-second TV spot that began running last week. “Proposition 61 is a very, very important step forward … and will be a real blow against this greedy industry that will reverberate all over America.”
The measure is one of the most expensive on the November ballot, with opponents, including many of the nation’s largest drug companies, having raised more than $86 million to defeat it, compared to about $15 million from supporters, who include the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the California Nurses Association.
The initiative would require the state to pay no more for the drugs it now buys for groups like Medi-Cal recipients and retired public employees than the federal government pays for drugs for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates with drug companies and pays an estimated 20 percent less for medicines than other government agencies.
Opponents argue that the ballot measure would increase the price of drugs for veterans and limit access to drugs for all Californians, since it would set unreasonably low prices that drug companies could not sustain.
A Field Poll released last month found that 50 percent of likely California voters backed the bill, with only 16 percent opposed. But the huge 34 percent of voters who are undecided is going to be the target of a tsunami of TV ads from both sides in the weeks before the Nov. 8 election.
Watch the spot here: