Big Pharma Can Be Beaten: This Union Proved It

Nevada's Culinary Workers Union took on Big Pharma and won. (Image: CIPhotos / iStock / Getty Images Plus)Nevada’s Culinary Workers Union took on Big Pharma and won. (Image: CIPhotos / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

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When Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval sat down at the Culinary Health Center in east Las Vegas on June 15 to sign the nation’s toughest-ever drug pricing law, Bonnie Sedich was thinking of her daughter Mary. Mary had Type 1 diabetes, and she had struggled to afford insulin as its cost rose by over 300 percent in recent years. Sedich thought about the still-unpaid bills for the credit cards that she and her husband maxed out trying to help Mary buy medicine. And she thought about Mary’s last grim months of life, partially paralyzed by a stroke and tortured by other diabetes complications, before dying in November at age 51.

Bonnie Sedich’s grief was still raw when she talked to Nevada legislators earlier this year about the need to rein in the price of insulin, a 95-year-old drug likely manufactured at a cost of a few dollars per vial but sold for as much as $400. For many diabetics, including all Type 1 diabetics like Mary, insulin is necessary for survival. “But what good does it do if you can’t afford it?” Sedich asked the lawmakers.

On the day of the bill signing, Sedich watched the governor talk with health care providers and working people with diabetes. The ceremony’s setting at the health center operated by the Culinary Workers Union of UNITE HERE was no coincidence. Sedich is a former union member, and the union was the driving force behind Nevada’s new law.

As the governor put pen to paper, several of those gathered around him were in tears, including Sedich. “It just seemed that Mary’s suffering had taken on some meaning,” she said later. “I felt encouraged.”

Others are feeling encouraged, too. The Nevada legislation is the most significant victory to date for…

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