Jared Polis

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic candidate for governor, responds to a question in June during a televised debate in Denver.

Jared Polis has promised to take on high drug prices and defend affordable health care, but the Democratic governor candidate’s portfolio over the years shows an array of investments in drug makers reaping big profits.

Polis released a campaign ad in May touting his tough talk on health care, one of his major policy positions. Last week, when state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, announced her intent to sue opioid maker Purdue Pharma over its alleged deceptive marketing, Polis applauded her move. He called it an “important step forward” to make drugmakers accountable for the addiction rates that are widely called an epidemic.

Polis has not invested in Purdue, but his congressional financial disclosure forms, first flagged by opposition researchers, show investments in other drug companies that include Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Mylan, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck and Pfizer — all of which have been accused in lawsuits or by regulators of deceptive practices and misconduct. The companies have denied the accusations.

Asked about the investments and the candidate’s messaging, Polis’ campaign pivoted to Stapleton.

“Coloradans know there is a reason why Walker Stapleton hasn’t joined Jared in supporting the lawsuit to hold Big Pharma accountable,” said his spokesperson, Mara Sheldon.

“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.”

True, Stapleton’s financial disclosure statements show he has invested in UnitedHealth Group and King Soopers parent Kroger, which have been accused in other states alongside Purdue, though not in the Colorado suit.

In a lawsuit filed in March by the city of Alexandria, Va., which was provided to Colorado Politics by Democratic opposition researchers, UnitedHealth is a co-defendant with Purdue, but so is Teva Pharmaceuticals, a company Polis has invested in.

Both candidates are wealthy and well-invested with broad portfolios.

Stapleton has not made drug prices a specific part of his campaign.

“Congressman Polis is once again caught saying one thing and doing the complete opposite,” said Stapleton campaign spokesman Jerrod Dobkin. “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.”

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

Load comments