“No More Tears for Greed” seeks awareness in New Brunswick

The majority of Californians would support a ballot initiative to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the state, according to a poll, but the pharmaceutical industry is pouring in money to prevent voters from approving that measure and one big donor is based in the Garden State.

Advocates for reducing skyrocketing specialty drug prices unveiled a new marketing and public awareness campaign this week in New Brunswick, the global headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, Inc., admonishing the pharmaceutical giant for contributing $5.8 million dollars to oppose a California ballot initiative that would lower drug prices across that state.

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Drawing upon the company’s signature branding for its best-selling baby shampoo, a mobile billboard with the message “No More Tears for Greed” will circulate in the vicinity of the Johnson & Johnson campus.  

In a shocking decision that underscores Johnson & Johnson’s heavyweight influence in the local region and beyond, the move to launch a mobile billboard campaign was made in response to an outdoor advertising company rejecting the drug pricing advocates’ efforts to run paid billboards near the company’s headquarters.  The ads will also appear in nearby transit stations.

In addition, street teams have begun distributing palm cards near the Johnson & Johnson campus to inform local residents and workers of the company’s multi-million dollar contributions to derail the California Drug Price Relief Act, a November 2016 California ballot measure that would mandate government health programs pay no more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which typically gets deep discounts on medications from drug manufacturers.

“It’s truly sad and disappointing that one of the most well-known and trusted companies in America is using its vast resources to try to keep drug prices at their outrageously high levels,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and one of the citizen proponents of the California Drug Price Relief Act.  “In 2014, Johnson & Johnson reported making over $16 billion in profit, an 18% increase from the previous year.  With those kind of returns, it’s absolutely appalling that this corporate giant would lead the way to oppose grassroots efforts to help the little man—everyday citizens who depend on health agencies and insurers having access to the medications they need.  For people living with HIV/AIDS, this is a life-or-death situation.”

While soaring drug prices continue to place undue burden on public health agencies and insurers across the country and drugmakers rake in billions in profits, the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful lobbying arm, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has established a fund of more than $10 million to fight the California Drug Price Relief Act.  According to California Secretary of State public fillings, Johnson & Johnson is the largest contributor to the fund, with $5.86 million donated to date.  Drugmakers Amgen ($4.265 million), AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP ($4.15 million), AbbVie Inc. ($4.15 million), (Novartis ($2.88 million), Eli Lily ($2.88 million), Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. ($2.88 million), Otsuka America, Inc. ($1.075 million) and Purdue Pharma LP ($1.105 million) are among the companies who have also contributed millions of dollars to oppose the measure and keep drug prices—and profits—at record levels.

The mobile billboard and street team marketing will continue raising awareness in Brunswick around the Johnson & Johnson campus over the next few weeks.  Additional information on the campaign can be viewed at JandJgreed.org

Separately, advocates from AHF and ‘Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices’ have been collecting voter signatures in Ohio for a similar drug pricing ballot measure since mid-August. State officials approved petition language in early August. Both the California and Ohio measures are expected to qualify for, and appear on, the November 2016 presidential election ballots in their respective states.


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