A searing new report from the Associated Press claims that the makers of opioid painkillers, the dangerous drugs at the center of the tragic overdose crisis, outspent the US gun lobby on lobbying and campaign contributions by 8:1.
The report looked at the period from 2006 to 2015, when deaths from the drugs began to skyrocket. Here are some of its most striking findings:
- Opioid drugmakers including Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, spent more than $880 million, or roughly $98 million per year, on lobbying and campaign contributions that included efforts to support the drugs. Drugmakers and allied advocacy groups employed a yearly average of 1,350 lobbyists in legislative centers. In 2015 alone, 227 million opioid prescriptions were given out in the US, or “enough to hand a bottle of pills to nine out of every 10 American adults.” Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, made $2.4 billion from opioid sales last year alone.
Worse still, the same drug companies now stand to make more money off of new iterations of the pills which they’re marketing as safer and tougher to abuse but which may not actually work to stem the tide of overdose deaths, the report states.
According to the report, opioid drugmakers are behind state-based lobbying efforts aimed at peddling so-called “abuse-deterrent” versions of the drugs which may carry the same risks of addiction but “ultimately are more lucrative [than traditional opioids], since they’re protected by patent and do not yet have generic competitors.”
The opioid epidemic has already claimed more than 165,000 American lives. Deaths from the drugs – which dozens of studies have shown can be addictive since they act on the brain in a manner almost identical to heroin – have continued to skyrocket. In 2013, more Americans died from overdosing on opioid painkillers than from heroin or cocaine combined.
- Dylan Roach/Business Insider
In response to the allegations made by the AP, Purdue shared this statement with Business Insider: “We support policies that align with the FDA and The White House’s view that opioids with abuse-deterrent properties are a public health priority.”