Bay Area Counties Join Gov. Newsom's Push to Lower Drug Prices

Three Bay Area counties are joining Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to consolidate bargaining with pharmaceutical companies. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

At a press conference at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco on Thursday, Mayor London Breed announced that San Francisco, Alameda and Santa Clara counties would join Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to collectively bargain with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices.

"When we have people struggling on the streets of San Francisco, with mental health challenges and substance use disorder, or people spending thousands of dollars on life-saving medications for HIV/AIDS, or people fighting a battle with cancer, we need to be focused on helping them recover and heal," said Breed. "Not whether or not they can afford to pay for the medication."

Since being sworn in, Gov. Newsom has made expanding health coverage in the state a key part of his agenda.

Back in January, he signed an executive order that would consolidate the state's negotiating power with drug manufacturers by having state agencies like Medi-Cal, CalPERS and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation bargain together.

Newsom also invited local governments to join the effort. Last month, Los Angeles County — which spends around $250 million on pharmaceuticals annually and is the nation's most populous — signed on to Newsom's effort.

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"With all due respect to Big Pharma, I have no problem with people being successful. I don't begrudge success. I appreciate competition, I appreciate research," explained Newsom "But I don't like people taking advantage of other people. I don't like gouging. I don't like windfalls. I don't like folks getting massive bonuses at the expense of people on the streets and the sidewalks."

During the event, Newsom also announced he'd be inviting private companies to join the bargaining pool, as well as other states that are interested.

"We do not imitate. For we, California, are a model to others. What we are advancing here today is novel. What we are advancing here today is new. What we're advancing here today matters. What we're doing here today is something I expect others to be doing tomorrow," said Newsom.

The proposal goes into effect in 2021.