SACRAMENTO, Calif. November 2, 2016 “Pharma campaign against CA ballot measure tops $126M,” screams the headline in an article in Politico’s ‘Prescription Pulse’ (10/31/16) by Sarah Karlin-Smith and Brett Norman, a dollar amount that now breaks the drug industry’s own previous and shameful record—$109M—for most money contributed to one side of a ballot measure in California history. (The campaign on behalf of Propositions #94-97 in 2008 spent a combined $108.3 million, but that covered four different measures.)
In its Politico posting on pharma’s latest contributions, Karlin-Smith and Norman reported that the pharmaceutical industry,
“… has amassed a $126 million war chest to fight off the California ballot measure that would require the state to pay no more for drugs than the Veterans Administration pays. In the last month, the industry has collected more than $22 million, the latest data posted online shows. Most of the campaign’s money is now out the door — more than $105 million. That leaves just under $20.5 million left to spend in the last week of the election — but that’s still more than the total raised by the groups pushing the ballot measure — just shy of $14 million.”
However, despite the enormity of drug industry cash being injected into the campaign at this late stage, the money appears to be having little, or at best only a moderate effect in moving enough California voters to the ‘No’ side on Prop. 61. According to a Hoover Institute Golden State Poll released earlier yesterday: “Prop. 61, which would bar the state from paying more than the federal Department of Veteran Affairs does for the same prescription drugs, leads 51 to 24 percent. Liberal voters approve of the idea by a 6-to-1 margin (66 to 11 percent); moderates gave it a 2-1 nod (47 to 24 percent); and conservatives were evenly divided (39 percent favoring and 40 percent opposing).”
“Pharma’s clearly running scared,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the primary sponsor and major funder of Prop. 61. “Our ‘Yes on 61’ campaign team goes into the final stretch with 380 billboards throughout California, days of newspaper sticky note ads statewide, two million Bernie Sanders’ postcards hitting later this week, a very active on-line presence, TV ads, the film, ‘Your Money or Your Life,’ an enormously compelling documentary on drug industry greed, two ‘Yes on 61’ buses on the road—and appearances by Bernie Sanders in Northern and Southern California next Monday—the day before the election. We are guardedly optimistic about the outcome of next Tuesday’s election; however, we take nothing for granted and will campaign vigorously and tirelessly for every last vote for ‘Yes on 61’.”
Prop. 61 is the only opportunity voters in California will have this year to address the high cost of prescription drugs, and it is the only drug-pricing measure on the ballot in the United States. Proposition 61 would require the state of California to negotiate with drug companies for drug prices that are no more than is paid for the same drugs by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). Prop. 61 empowers the state, as the healthcare buyer for millions of Californians, to negotiate the same or an even better deal for taxpayers, saving the state billions.