More addictive opioids are prescribed by Alabama doctors than in any other state, and drug companies are fanning the flames hiring 1,800 lobbyists and spending $880 million on campaign contributions since 2006 to push policies to protect profits, according to a joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity.
Comparatively, citizens groups fighting the war on prescription drug abuse spend about $4 million. Opioids – a drug class that includes heroin, morphine and Oxycontin – are the most abused prescription drugs in the country. Some states and municipalities have taken opioid manufacturers to court, accusing them of fueling the prescription drug abuse problem. But it continues to be an uphill battle. The joint investigation gives some clues as to why.
According to research by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity, more than 5.8 million opioid prescriptions were written in 2015 – a rate of 1.2 prescriptions per person, the highest rate nationally. The national per capita average was just 0.71 in 2015, by comparison.
Since 2006, an average of 18 lobbyists register with the state each year. They are employed by Pain Care Forum, a coalition of companies and advocacy groups that focus on opioid-related issues. While Alabama ranks 33rd among Pain Care Forum member lobbyists, the number of lobbyists has doubled in the past decade from 13 to 26. Opioid manufacturers are also generous to candidates and parties, giving at least $539,350 in contributions through the Pain Care Forum since 2006.
In turn, the number of overdose deaths has jumped a startling 82 percent from 2006 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of those deaths are tied to prescription opioids and heroin. In Alabama, 14.9 people in 100,000 die from drug overdoses.
Source: Insurance Journal