Drug makers and organizations they help fund spent more than $880 million during the past decade on issues including proposed laws related to opioids, which have killed 165,000 people since 2000 and caused untold others to become addicted to heroin, according to an investigation done by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity.
That’s 200 times more than the $4 million spent by groups trying to limit opioids, and eight times more than the gun lobby spent during the period, according to the two-part investigation.
Opioids include prescription painkillers including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, and can be similar to heroin and morphine in their addictiveness.
The investigation concluded that even as it became clear opioid addiction and overdoses are a public health crisis, the drug industry’s team of about 1,350 lobbyists was working against state- and federal-level laws and regulations aimed at limiting the flow of opioids.
It further found that non-profits such as the Pain Care Forum were receiving drug industry backing as they lobbied government officials for the purpose of influencing proposed regulations pertaining to opioids, and often the people being lobbies didn’t know about the connection to the drug industry.
The drugmakers told the AP and the center they don’t take policy positions, and have been trying have a positive impact on the crisis through steps such as designing opioids which are harder to abuse, and supporting state-level databases intended to stop “doctor-shopping” by addicts seeking to find doctors to supply them.