Health

Yes on Prop 61 campaign kicks off in Los Angeles with a boost from Bernie Sanders supporters

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Bernie Sanders supporters, who are now organizing in a new group called “Our Revolution,” will be among those drumming up support for Proposition 61, the California ballot initiative aimed at limiting prescription drug prices for state agencies. 

Support from Our Revolution will be visible as the initiative's 40-foot double decker bus rolls onto college campuses and other locations during its statewide journey that kicked off Monday in downtown Los Angeles, said Roger Salazar, spokesman for the Yes on 61 campaign. 

The ballot measure, known officially as the "California Drug Price Relief Act," would require California’s state-run health programs to pay drug companies no more for medications than does the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA requires drug makers offer the agency a discount amounting to 24 percent off a drug's average price. 

The Yes on 61 campaign is facing off with opponents that include the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and drug makers, including Pfizer, Merck and Gilead.

They argue that passage of the ballot initiative would result in higher prescription drug costs for the state and would reduce patient access to medications. 

Salazar says says so far, the yes campaign has raised about $10 million, but says that budget will be small compared to the drug makers' campaign war chest.

"We understand the other side is going to spend tens of millions of dollars on this campaign," he says,  adding that community-support for the measure will be key. "We’re not going to be able to bombard the airwaves like the pharmaceutical industry is going to, so we have to get our message across people-to-people. This is going to be a real grassroots effort - a little bit like David and Goliath." 

Other supporters of the initiative, beyond Sen. Bernie Sanders, include the California Nurses Association, AARP, Inc., VoteVets and the Urban League, he said.

A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll shows 66 percent of California voters are in favor of the initiative, 23 percent are opposed to it, and 12 percent are undecided.