Drug Companies Spent $880 Million To Fight Opioid Laws

| by Michael Allen
Prescription DrugsPrescription Drugs

While America was (and still is) in the grips of a serious opioid addiction epidemic from 2006 through 2015, pharmaceutical companies that make opioid painkillers reportedly spent $880 million to kill or weaken regulations that were written to curb abuse and save lives.

The drug companies paid hundreds of lobbyists and pumped millions into campaign contributions while 165,000 Americans died and many others succumbed to addictions to drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl (Prince), according to The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity.

While drug companies have said they are trying to fight opioid addiction, the same companies have often used delay and defend tactics, and donated to advocacy groups, such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Academy of Integrative Pain Management, to oppose limits on prescription painkillers.

The drug companies outspent those who called for stricter rules by more than 200 times.

While Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to build his 2,000-mile border wall to protect Americans from drug addiction, the drug companies reportedly have a 50-state strategy that includes a regular presence in state capitals to ensure no one steps on their turf.

"The opioid lobby has been doing everything it can to preserve the status quo of aggressive prescribing," Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an advocate for opioid restrictions, told AP. "They are reaping enormous profits from aggressive prescribing."

Opioid prescription sales quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. In 2015, doctors wrote 227 million opioid prescriptions.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry trade group representing the drug industry, said: "We and our members stand with patients, providers, law enforcement, policymakers and others in calling for and supporting national policies and action to address opioid abuse."

People may wonder where the Federal Drug Administration was during this mass addiction and profit.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg stated that 100 million people were in severe chronic pain after the FDA was criticized for approving Zohydro, a narcotic painkiller, according to a 2014 report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The 100 million number was quoted by drug companies and medical groups that wanted new opioid medications approved. 

However, an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today revealed that nine of 19 experts, who originally came up with the 100 million number in a pain report, had financial links to drug companies within a three-year timeframe from their contribution to the report.

The 100 million number includes those who have said they have chronic pain (three to six months), people with persistent back pain that is manageable, patients who recover from surgery, people fighting cancer, Americans who may not try to get medical care, those who use over-the-counter medicines and people who use prescription opioid medications.

Two experts who were connected with the report said during a meeting at the National Institutes of Health that the 100 million number was exaggerated.

Sources: The Associated PressMilwaukee Journal Sentinel / Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons

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