Bernie Sanders is taking on big pharma with the passion that sparked his huge campaign

Big pharma is getting Berned

Politicians are often accused of pandering to voters and caring about issues just enough to get themselves elected to office. They hold rallies and give speeches, proclaiming that they will be the one to finally bring about some sort of change. Too often they fall short on those promises. For the politically disenfranchised, the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders was a breath of fresh air and perhaps an opportunity to break the cycle of electing manipulative leaders. Since Bernie endorsed Hillary Clinton this summer, his supporters have been largely frustrated, disappointed and left feeling betrayed.

Over the last few weeks however, Bernie has been using the enormous influence and clout he has accumulated to adapt to his new role and continue fighting. The pharmaceutical industry, like any industry that is poorly regulated, has a tendency to take capitalist ideas of the bottom line and profit margins too far. The cost of prescription drugs has always been a sector that Bernie has grappled with and sought to fix.

Taking on big pharma was a large component of his recent presidential bid, but it has always been something he focused on as a politician. As a senator in Vermont, Bernie actually brought women with breast cancer to Canada so they could purchase more affordable drugs. For the self-described democratic socialist the price gouging of medicine for those with very serious illnesses is simply unacceptable and disgraceful.

Bernie will not be the next President of the United States, but that does not mean he will be walking away from the battles he has promised to fight. Bernie’s now taking on various pharmaceutical companies with the same passion that he used to galvanize his massive grassroots movement – and it’s working. The first blow to the unaffected paradigm of overpriced prescription drugs in America was his vocal opposition to the Obama Administration’s decision to appoint Dr Robert Califf as the head of the FDA back in January, because of Califf’s close ties to large pharmaceutical companies.

In addition to pleading his case in the Senate, Bernie has been using his popular status to begin criticizing these large companies on Twitter where he has more than 2.5 million followers. Sanders has also been extremely critical about the high prices of EpiPens, and has used his newfound appeal to attack Mylan (the drug manufacturer) publicly. Sanders has also had a large presence in California more recently to speak about Proposition 61, which is a ballot initiative that aims to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Bernie has now made a tangible impact on a big pharmaceutical industry with his comments on Twitter alone. He highlighted Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. for their grossly overpriced leukemia drug that reportedly costs users up to $200,000 annually. The product in question was Iclusig, which is designed to treat a rare form of leukemia and costs $16,000 for a meager 30-day supply. Following his comments the value of Ariad stock fell 15 points, hitting them with a loss of almost $400 million dollars.

In the heat of the presidential race it is easy to be bitter about Bernie easing up on Hillary and campaigning with her, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking she was ever the real target of his transformative energy. He hasn’t forgotten what the real issues are, and this proves that his far reaching influence is still crucial and extremely relevant to American politics.

Bernie has always been focused on challenging the industries that profit from people in predatory ways, and this includes big banks, multinational corporations and greedy drug companies. He was never pandering to us, and although he lost the battle he is clearly willing to keep fighting the larger war of inequality and unfairness which was at the core of his campaign. Perhaps this is the beginning of the new Bernie Sanders who will follow through with his promises despite losing the race.

One thing is clear, Bernie will be vocal opposition and he will not quietly fall into obscurity.

Ithaca College