Skip to content

Liz Masterson, a registered nurse, votes Yes on Prop 61 in Richmond. Photo by Julia Vassey

Richmond residents are split after Prop 61 does not pass

on November 10, 2016

For Richmond resident Kathy Greaves, voting yes on Proposition 61—the drug price-control measure that state voters rejected on Tuesday—was a no-brainer, as she buys most of her medication abroad to save money.

“Thyroid medication, allergy medication, antibiotics…I order these drugs online, and save a fortune,” Greaves said.,”.

Greaves said she knew the efforts to defeat the proposition were “well funded by ‘pharma,’” which made her an even bigger supporter of the measure.

More than $123 million was spent in the battle over the proposition, making it the most expensive measure on the California ballot this year. Prop 61’s opponents—led by Merck, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson—spent $109 million to defeat the measure, more than seven times the amount spent in support of it.

Many Richmond residents were split over the measure—often along party lines.

“Drug prices do go out of hand,” said retired nurse Judy Barron, a democrat. “Elderly [people] have to make a choice sometimes: either to buy food or drugs.”

Ron Turner, a disabled veteran who voted against the proposition, said it was “a bad deal for California.”

“I get everything for free now, and if it passes, I might have to pay for my drugs,” he said before the election.

Proposition 61 would have prohibited state agencies, such as Medi-Cal, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, from paying more for any prescription drug than the lowest price paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the same drug.

The Department of Veterans Affairs receives a 24 percent federally mandated discount on prescription drugs. Drugs prices set at that rate are publicly available in an online database, but the agency negotiates lower prices for some drugs, and it keeps those prices confidential, according to the State of California Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor. 

The Government Accountability Office estimates that the Department of Veterans Affairs might be actually getting as much as a 40 percent discount on some prescription drugs, and if manufacturers decided to raise prices in response to Proposition 61, this could have cost the agency about $3.8 billion a year. That alone had many veterans scared across the state.

In Richmond, many voters said they decided whether to support or oppose the ballot based on what they heard in the many ads for and against it.

“I voted yes because Bernie said so,” said retiree Christopher Nelson, referring to former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ support for the proposition.

“I voted no as the Department of Veterans Affairs said on TV,” said Bill Masters, a Korean War veteran.

Polls had predicted a tight race, but in the end the measure was defeated statewide—although in Contra Costa County 51 percent of voters approved it.

Richmond Confidential welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Richmond Confidential assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Card image cap
Richmond Confidential

Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

Please send news tips to

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top