Opinion: Big Pharma fears Prop. 61, but not for the reasons Bernie Sanders says

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at a rally for California’s Proposition 61, a failed drug-pricing initiative he backed.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The op-ed article by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in support of Proposition 61 is laudable, but there is no assurance that its passage will bring Big Pharma to the negotiating table. (“Bernie Sanders: Stand up to Big Pharma greed. Vote yes on Proposition 61,” Opinion, Oct. 21)

Sanders writes, ”It’s unacceptable that the exact drugs that we buy in our country are sold in Canada, Britain and other countries for a fraction of the price.” You might ask why U.S. pharmaceutical wholesalers don’t simply buy their drugs from Canada. 

The reason is that the Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA), signed into law by President Reagan in 1988, prohibits the reimportation of U.S.-made drugs once they have been shipped to a foreign country. Even more outrageous, the law signed by President George W. Bush creating Medicare Part D prohibits the federal government, Big Pharma’s largest customer, from negotiating the prices it pays for drugs. 

The reason that Big Pharma is pouring so much money and effort into defeating Proposition 61 is that its passage may just open the door to inquiry into the PDMA and the Medicare Part D law. 


Herbert Weinberg, Los Angeles

The writer, a licensed pharmacist, is an attorney specializing in healthcare law.


To the editor: Sanders and other backers of Proposition 61 focus on reining in the costs of prescriptions. Great, but Proposition 61 was not written to address the majority of Californians with private insurance or Medicare who are faced with the high cost of drugs.


Even The Times’ editorial board has expressed concern about what Big Pharma will do to recoup its lost profits. As an editorial noted, drug companies have responded to past regulatory efforts to control costs by raising prices for buyers in the private sector.

Proposition 61 will not help most Californians find relief. The way this proposition is promoted, I do not believe Californians are aware of this fact.

Although I hate to support anything put out by the drug companies, I think Californians need to understand the bigger picture that Prop 61 is not the panacea that we had hoped for.

Felice Urban, Westlake Village

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