Bernie Sanders meets with AIDS activists in California, issues misleading press release backing a CA drug-pricing initiative that many AIDS activists oppose; implies (emphasis on *implies* - read the press release, which is linked below) (or maybe, "creates the impression") that the prime business of the meeting with AIDS activists was to rally around the dodgy bill
A lot of backstory:
So there's an initiative on the California ballot next November, The California Drug Price Relief Act, whose ostensible purpose is to lower the price of prescription drugs for CA citizens.
It "was designed to restrict the amount that any state agency could pay for drugs, tying it to the price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs" (ballotpedia.org/...).
(The Veterans Dept "is widely cited as paying the lowest prices in the nation" (www.santacruzsentinel.com/...) [Subsequent quotes from this article marked "Santa Cruz"]).
Bernie Sanders supports the Drug Price Relief Act, because, duh: it'll lower the price of prescription drugs! So it seems? And "pharmaceutical companies have raised more than $52 million to defeat the measure" (Santa Cruz); and so: if wicked profit-driven Big Pharma is fighting the bill so hard, well, it must be a good bill, yes?
However, the details of the bill are "so obscure and unclear," says Anne Donnelly, "director of health care policy for Project Inform, a San Francisco-based organization that advocates for HIV and hepatitis C patients, and a member of the ad-hoc Fair Pricing Coalition to bring down prescription costs," that "there is a possibility for some unintended, very harmful consequences" (Santa Cruz).
David Gorn of Kaiser Health News wonders the following:
"What happens if the state is unsuccessful in negotiating the same rate as the Veterans Administration? Does the state have to make do without that drug" (californiahealthline.org/...)?
Sharing these and other qualms, a whole gaggle of health care advocates and institutions oppose and have written against the Drug Price Relief act, including the California Hospital Association (calmatters.org/...); the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California and the Association of Northern California Oncologists (archive.constantcontact.com/...); & others.
So here's an odd instance where Big Pharma and heath care advocates are fighting together to oppose an initiative that was written in order to lower drug costs - but written badly, and potentially causing more problems than it solves (putting affordable drugs even further out of the reach of many CA residents).
Complicatedly, California's biggest AIDS organization, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AHF, is the primary backer and indeed proposer of the initiative.
AHF has consistently been on the wrong side of issues surrounding HIV treatment and prevention. Its head, Michael Weinstein, for instance, continues to insist that HIV prevention starts and ends with condoms, and that the HIV prophylactic drug Truvada is nothing more than "a party drug" for sex-crazed sillybillys (sorry, a little editorial interjection there, on my part).
The AHF is precisely the sort of "establishment" AIDS & LGBT-ish organization that Sanders derided when he (accurately) called the DC-based LGBT-advocating Human Rights Campaign "establishment."
Okay, so then: Bernie Sanders meets Wednesday 25 May with AIDS activists, in California; and then his campaign issues a press release about the meeting (berniesanders.com/...), reiterating Sanders's support of the AHF-backed Drug Price Relief initiative, and giving the impression that the substance of the meeting with AIDS activists was that all were in support of the initiative.
And yet, one of the activists at the 25 May meeting, Peter Staley, posted this status update to his Facebook page, this morning:
"Feeling used and abused by the Sanders campaign right now.
"They just issued a press release making it sound like our meeting was about his endorsement of AHF's [AIDS Healthcare Foundation] drug pricing ballot initiative in CA.
"Senator Sanders never brought the issue up during our meeting.
"WE brought it up near the end, only to tell him that we had been flooded with messages from all the leading AIDS organizations in CA with deep concerns about AHF's initiative -- they are worried it could actually negatively impact access to AIDS drugs.
"Those groups have tried to reach the campaign with these concerns but had hit a brick wall.
"We asked Sanders to designate someone in his campaign to talk with these groups, and he agreed to this.
"WE DID NOT ENDORSE AHF'S INITIATIVE.
"His campaign should not have issued a press release implying this was a major topic of discussion at the meeting, and that there was general agreement on the Senator's position on this.