Poll Takers Place Opioid Crisis Blame at the Feet of the Pharmaceutical Industry

white pills spilling out of orange bottle

It is estimated that more than 130 people in the United States die every day from an opioid-related overdose and the general public vastly lays the blame for these deaths at the feet of the pharmaceutical industry.

A poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research revealed that two-thirds of those who participated say the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the opioid-based pain medications are largely to blame for the crisis that has swept across the country. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services officially recognized the crisis and declared a public health emergency. And, it seems that the government also shares the sentiment of those polled. On the HHS web page devoted to the opioid epidemic, the first entry points to the marketing efforts by pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s that included reassurances that patients would not become addicted to the opioid-based pain relievers. As a result of that, prescribers increased the number of prescriptions being written for opioid pain relievers.

“Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive,” HHS said on its website.

In 2017 alone, drug overdoses took the lives of more than 70,000 people, with almost 48,000 of those deaths due to opioids, prescription-based and illegal, according to government data.

According to the poll, 63 percent say the pharmaceutical companies bear direct responsibility for the crisis and related deaths. Doctors, dentists and other prescribers also share a significant portion of the blame, the poll shows. Users also get a share of the blame from those surveyed as well, the poll showed.

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The opioid crisis has not only become a serious healthcare issue, but it’s also become a legal and political issue as well. In March, the White House released its outlined plan to stop opioid abuse and reduce drug supply and demand in the United States. The administration directed the release of hundreds of millions of dollars to help reduce opioid-related deaths in four of the states that have been hardest hit.

In addition to the government response, there have been thousands of lawsuits filed against opioid drugmakers. Last year BioSpace highlighted a number of the lawsuits that have been filed against the opioid-makers.

In March, embattled Purdue Pharma has agreed to pay $270 million to settle a lawsuit brought against the company over the marketing of its opioid painkiller OxyContin. The lawsuit filed against Purdue points to the company’s aggressive marketing tactics used to gain wide-spread use of its pain killer. The state of Oklahoma had been seeking more than $20 billion in damages from Purdue, as well as other opioid manufacturers, such as Teva Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson. While Purdue has settled this case, there are still numerous others it faces, including one in Massachusetts. The Bay State has attempted to place blame on the company for 670 opioid-related deaths in the state since 2009. The lawsuit against Purdue has also made sure to emphasize how critical the success of OxyContin sales was to the company’s bottom line.

Another opioid drugmaker in the crosshairs of a high-profile legal battle is Insys. The company has been embroiled in lawsuits over the marketing tactics for Subsys, its powerful pain killer intended for use with cancer patients. Insys founder John Kapoor, other executives and members of its sales team, have been charged with orchestrating kickback schemes to encourage doctors to boost prescriptions of Subsys.

The government has also filed charges against the Rochester Drug Co-Operative, Inc. (RDC), one of the 10 largest pharmaceutical distributors in the United States for their roles in distributing opioid medications.

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