Last weekend the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” did a major public service and reported that pharmaceutical lobbyists had manipulated Congress to hamstring the Drug Enforcement Administration. Just as frightening, Donald Trump intended to name big Pharma's point man in Congress to be his new drug czar until the scathing coverage derailed that effort and Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino, withdrew his name from consideration. The crisis of deaths from opioids is a prime example of why strict government regulation is needed because sadly in too many corporate board rooms the only thing that matters is money - even when it comes from actions that lead to needless deaths. Rather than rail against petty anti dealers and increase the arrests on users of small amounts of marijuana, Trump and the ever despicable Jeff Sessions need to go after big Pharma which not only has become a merchant of death but also overcharges everyday Americans on virtually a daily basis. A column in the New York Times looks at the underlying cause for the opioid crisis. Here are highlights:For decades, America has waged an ineffective war on drug pushers and drug lords, from Bronx street corners to Medellin, Colombia, regarding them as among the most contemptible specimens of humanity.
One reason our efforts have failed is we ignored the biggest drug pushers of all: American pharmaceutical companies.
Our policy was: You get 15 people hooked on opioids, and you’re a thug who deserves to rot in hell; you get 150,000 people hooked, and you’re a marketing genius who deserves a huge bonus.
Big Pharma should be writhing in embarrassment this week after The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” reported that pharmaceutical lobbyists had manipulated Congress to hamstring the Drug Enforcement Administration. But the abuse goes far beyond that: The industry systematically manipulated the entire country for 25 years, and its executives are responsible for many of the 64,000 deaths of Americans last year from drugs — more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined.
The opioid crisis unfolded because greedy people — Latin drug lords and American pharma executives alike — lost their humanity when they saw the astounding profits that could be made.
Today, 75 percent of people with opioid addictions began with prescription painkillers. The slide starts not on a street corner, but in a doctor’s office.
That’s because pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s sought to promote opioid painkillers as new blockbuster drugs. Company executives accused doctors of often undertreating pain (there was something to this, but pharma executives contrived to turn it into a crisis that they could monetize). The companies backed front organizations like the American Pain Foundation, which purported to speak on behalf of suffering patients.
The opioid promoters hailed opioids as “safe and effective,” and they particularly encouraged opioids for returning veterans — one reason so many veterans have suffered addictions.
Drug companies employed roughly the same strategy as street-corner pushers: Get somebody hooked and business will take care of itself. So last year, Americans received 236 million opioid prescriptions — that’s about one bottle for every adult.
[T]he Sackler family, owner of the company that makes OxyContin, joined Forbes’s list of richest American families in 2015, with $14 billion.
It’s maddening that the public narrative is still often about an opioid crisis fueled by the personal weakness and irresponsibility of users. No, it’s fueled primarily by the greed and irresponsibility of drug lords — including the kind who inhabit executive suites. The Washington Post quoted a former D.E.A. official as referring to pharmaceutical company representatives as “drug dealers in lab coats.”
Our pattern of opioid addiction points to a tragedy, driven by the greed of some of America’s leading companies and business executives, systematically manipulating doctors and patients and killing people on a scale that terrorists could never dream of.
There’s a lot of talk in the Trump administration about lifting regulations to free up the dynamism of corporations. Really? You want to see the consequences of unfettered pharma? Go visit a cemetery.