CALIFORNIA: AIDS Healthcare Foundation Faces Probe Over Use Of Federal Drug Discount Funds For Lobbying

Politico reports:

A California state senator has formally asked state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to investigate whether the powerhouse AIDS Healthcare Foundation is fraudulently misusing savings from a federal drug-discount program designed to help poor patients.

The request comes from state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista), who has urged an investigation into the politically powerful organization that has dumped upwards of $60 million into state ballot drives since 2012, according to Hueso’s letter obtained by POLITICO.

The senator’s concerns center on a somewhat obscure federal drug discount program known as 340B, which requires pharmaceutical companies to sell their drugs at steep discounts to participating hospitals and other providers that serve a significant percentage of indigent patients.

Hueso contends that the AHF is spending millions from the drug discount program to lobby for various California ballot measures not directly related to health care, such as rent control and affordable housing, an aspect of their work that has been well discussed here on JMG over the years.

The AHF, the self-proclaimed largest AIDS advocacy group in the world, contends that with an annual budget of $1.6 billion they don’t come close to approaching the limit of allowable lobbying.

However they have declined to provide documentation to support that claim, which recently resulted in being removed from Baton Rouge’s drug discount program. While based in California, the AHF has a sprawling network of pharmacies and thrift stores nationwide.

The group is perhaps best known here on JMG for their characterization of Truvada as a “party drug” when used for HIV prevention and for its combative CEO, Michael Weinstein, pictured above.

The full Politico report is well worth your time.