A joint investigation by the Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity reveals that we are losing the drug war. That’s not news. What is disturbing is that the study found that we are losing the prescription pain killer war and the culprit is pharmaceutical companies and their lobbying groups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and so have sales of these prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Opioid prescribing continues to fuel the epidemic. Today, at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid. In 2014, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.”
In spite of these grim statistics, the AP and The Center for Public Integrity found that in 2012 a pro-drug group, the Pain Care Forum, sent a letter to US Senators about the epidemic of pain in America. The letter reported that 100 million Americans (40% of the adult population) suffer from chronic pain. The Pain Care Forum neglected to mention the epidemic of drug overdoses and deaths.
“Hundreds of internal documents shed new light on how drug makers and their allies shaped the national response to the ongoing wave of prescription opioid abuse, which has claimed the lives of roughly 165,000 Americans since 2000, according to federal estimates. Painkillers are among the most widely prescribed medications in the U.S., but pharmaceutical companies and allied groups have a multitude of legislative interests beyond those drugs. From 2006 through 2015, participants in the Pain Care Forum spent over $740 million lobbying in the nation’s capital and in all 50 statehouses on an array of issues, including opioid-related measures, according to an analysis of lobbying filings by the Center for Public Integrity and AP. The same organizations reinforced their influence with more than $140 million doled out to political campaigns, including more than $75 million alone to federal candidates, political action committees and parties. That combined spending on lobbying and campaigns amounts to more than 200 times the $4 million spent during the same period by the handful of groups that work for restrictions on painkillers. Meanwhile, opioid sales reached $9.6 billion last year, according to IMS Health, a health information company.”
We are losing the drug war because those who profit the most from prescription drugs are spending their money where it counts-currying favor with elected officials.