The battle for California drug prices is in full swing. An initiative on the November ballot, the California Drug Price Relief Act, would require state agencies to pay the same price as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) for prescription drugs. The initiative would be a blessing to Californians struggling with out of control drug prices. The Pharmaceutical industry and their allies have already pumped over $68 million into a committee oppositng the initiative. The industry has already begun to claim that the initiative would harm patients. But is their real fear that it might cut into the hefty salaries of the pharmaceutical CEOs?
A New York Times analysis of the top paid CEOs in the United States found that four of the top 50 highest paid CEOs were from pharmaceutical companies. Leonard Schleifer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals was 7th on the list of highest paid CEOs in the nation - making a shocking $47.5 million in 2015. The top four pharmaceutical company CEOs were paid the following amounts in 2015:
$47.5 million: Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
$28.1 million: Jeffrey M. Leiden, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
$22.5 million: Robert Hugin, Celgene
$21.6 million: Brenton Saunders, Allergan
The wild salaries put under question the legitimacy of the arguments being made by Big Pharma against the Drug Price Relief Act. Sara Radcliffe, the President of the California Life Sciences Assocation - an industry political group, stated "By pegging the price of drugs to that price that is paid by the Veterans Affairs, it will limit the resources that are available for innovation by our member companies. And that will ultimately come back to harm the patients."
With just the top four Pharma CEOs being paid a combined $117 million in 2015, it's hard to believe the claims that innovation is the top priority for these companies. With the pharmaceutical industry expected to double their opposition spending to over $100 million, the public is right to wonder whether the high cost of drugs is really due to '"innovation," or rather due to excess profits and spending to reach political goals at the expense of patients.