Polis Vows to Take on Big Pharma, but Has History of Investing in Them

Campaign has run ads claiming he will lower prescription drug costs

Jared Polis / Polis for Colorado

Jared Polis, the Democrat nominee for governor of Colorado, is making prescription drug prices a campaign issue, but his congressional financial disclosures show he's invested in numerous ETFs which held some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Phizer, Mylan, and Teva.

"Now I'm battling drug companies to cut the costs of prescription drug costs," he says in one of his television ads that has already begun running in his bid to defeat Republican Walker Stapleton, currently the Colorado state treasurer.

"Congressman Polis is once again caught saying one thing and doing the complete opposite," Stapleton campaign spokesman Jerrod Dobkin told Colorado Politics, which first reported on the conflict. "His public calls for taking on big pharma ring hollow when he himself has been profiting. It's clear king Jared doesn't think the rules apply to him."

Polis applauded a recent decision by the state's current attorney general to sue Purdue Pharma, Inc., an opioid manufacturer, for deceptive marketing, and is arguing Stapleton hasn't been aggressive enough.

"Coloradans know there is a reason why Walker Stapleton hasn't joined Jared in supporting the lawsuit to hold Big Pharma accountable," his spokesperson, Mara Sheldon, told Colorado Politics. "Treasurer Stapleton is personally invested in companies being sued for causing the opioid crisis to begin with. Mr. Stapleton hasn't shown any willingness to take on Big Pharma, and he'll continue letting them price gouge Coloradans on their prescription drugs, and perpetuate the opioid crisis."

In making that accusation, the Polis team is pointing to a Stapleton investment in UnitedHealth Care, which has been named as a co-defendant alongside Purdue for opioid issues in other jurisdictions, but is not named in the recently announced Colorado suit.

For many years Polis has been considered among the top 10 wealthiest persons in Congress, and his vast portfolio has occasionally created other political trouble for him, also in the health care sector.

After the passage of the Affordable Care Act by congressional Democrats and President Obama in 2010, conservative author Peter Schweizer highlighted an investment Polis had in a "medical tourism" company called BridgeHealth, which would help health care customers find lower surgery prices usually overseas.

According to Schweizer:

In other words, Polis was betting that there would be more, not less, medical tourism after the passage of health care reform. Companies in the medical tourism industry generally agreed, and favored Obamacare. They did not believe the bill would actually contain costs, and if anything, they expected overseas medical procedures to become more attractive. Medical Tourism magazine featured an article after the passage of the bill entitled, "Medical Tourism Expands as Alternative to Obama- care." As the article put it, "Interest in medical tourism has expanded rapidly as Americans react to the new federal law."

When an excerpt of Schweizer's book was published in the Denver Post, Polis authored a rebuttal, saying the "assertions are blatantly and verifiably false."

"Additionally, when I was first elected in 2008, I decided to set up a blind trust to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, a step few members take and that is not required," Polis added.

As the Washington Free Beacon recently reported, however, the investments into BridgeHealth were not placed in the blind trust.