Capitol Alert

Drug companies win campaign over Prop. 61 price cap

Pharmaceutical companies have won California’s most expensive ballot measure battle, beating back Proposition 61’s effort to cap drug prices.

Proposition 61 was trailing 54 percent to 46 percent on Wednesday, and advocates acknowledged they had lost.

“This was a tremendous uphill battle from the very start,” said Garry South, lead strategist for the proponents. “The drug companies have managed to kill every other attempt to rein in drug prices, and last night they were able to defeat Prop. 61 by spending more money than has ever been thrown against a ballot measure in California’s history.”

The brainchild of Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the drug price initiative became closely linked with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. It sought to bar the state from spending more on a prescription drug than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In the closing weeks of the campaign, Sanders appeared at rallies in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles and in TV ads.

The drug industry spent well over $100 million toward its defeat, arguing that it would result in higher drug prices for a majority of Californians.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago