Big corporations, not street dealers, are the true
profiteers of the opioid crisis.
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – At a
recent rally in New Hampshire, Donald Trump called for the death
penalty for drug traffickers as part of a plan to combat the opioid
epidemic in the United States. At a Pennsylvania rally a few weeks
earlier, he called for the same.
administration is taking
steps toward making this proposal a reality. Attorney General Jeff
Sessions issued a memo on March 21 asking prosecutors to pursue
capital punishment for drug traffickers — a power he has thanks
to legislation passed under President Bill
Time and again, these
policies have proven ineffective at curbing drug deaths. That’s
partly because amping up the risk factor for traffickers makes the
trade all that more lucrative, encouraging more trafficking, not
But it’s also because
policies don’t address the true criminals of the opioid crisis:
If Trump really wanted to
put the noose around drug-making and selling giants like Purdue
Pharma, McKesson, Insys Therapeutics, Cardinal Health,
AmerisourceBergen, and others.
knows this, in a
way. These companies “contribute massive amounts of money to
political people,” he said at
a press conference in October 2017 — even
calling out Mitch McConnell, who was standing beside him, for taking
that money. Pharmaceutical manufacturers were “getting away
with murder,” Trump complained in the same speech.
For once, he’s wasn’t
Big Pharma Is A Big Spender In
spends more than any other industry on influencing politicians, with
two lobbyists for every member of Congress. Nine out of ten House
members and all but three senators have taken campaign
contributions from Big
It’s not just politicians
shell out for.
the creator of OxyContin, bankrolled a campaign to change
the prescription habits of doctors who
were wary of the substance’s addictive properties, going so far
as to send doctors on all-expense-paid trips to pain-management
that started it
all is worth some $13
From 2008 to
AmerisourceBergen distributed 118
million opioid pills to West Virginia alone. That’s about
65 pills per resident. In that same time frame, 1,728 people in the
state suffered opioid overdoses.
McKesson — the
fifth largest company in the U.S., with profits over $192
— contributed 5.8 million pills to just one
contributed more than $9
million to interest groups for
things like promoting their painkillers for chronic pain and lobbying
to defeat state limits on prescribing opioids.
These companies don’t stop
promoting opioids. They also spend big on stopping legislation that
would actually help curb opioid use.
Take Insys Therapeutics For
Therapeutics, a company
whose founder was indicted for allegedly bribing doctors to write
prescriptions for fentanyl (a substance 50 times stronger than
heroin), spent $500,000 to stop
marijuana legalization in Arizona in 2016.
In response, cities and
New York City to Ohio are suing pharmaceutical companies for their
role in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year. It’s
time for the federal government to get behind them.
Of course, going after
isn’t going to eliminate opioid abuse on its own. That will
take combating the root social and economic causes that lead to so
many deaths of despair.
But it’s clear who the
profiteers of the opioid epidemic are. If Trump wanted to get real
about curbing incentives for selling opioids, he’d turn away
from street dealers and target the real opioid-producing industry.
is media manager
at the Institute for Policy
in Washington, D.C. The IPS is a progressive
dedicated to building a more equitable, ecologically sustainable and
peaceful society by turning transformative policy
action. This report first appeared at OtherWords.org and is reprinted
here with permission.