64,000 people died of drug overdose in the year 2016—80% due to opioid drugs. Government officials say that the crisis is finally getting Washington’s attention, as the Wall Street Journal reported in March, 2018, but solutions continue to revolve around higher budgets for drug addiction facilities. In the past, the pressure remained on law enforcement to tackle the problem, but efforts are now shifting to increase rehabilitation funding. These approaches potentially distract attention from the root of the problem, which is malpractice by drug manufacturing giants and distributors, as Abby Martin of “Empire Files” reported in a November, 2017.
The first domino of the opioid crisis, Martin reported, can be traced back to when drug manufacturing companies began hiring biostitutes, a derogatory term for biological scientists hired to misrepresent research or commit fraud in order to benefit large corporations. As Martin reported, research by biostitutes was used to convince communities that opioids could treat pain without the risk of addiction. Big corporations continued to cover-up research supporting the highly addictive nature of the drug and began to push doctors to write more prescriptions on behalf of the ‘needs’ of consumers. This corruption within the system has led to the widely-reported addiction crisis in communities across the nation. Although there are policies in place such as the Substance Abuse Act in 1970 that should have prevented abuse of the system, the penalties for violations were too small, and companies treated them as business expenses.
Politically, the opioid crisis is being viewed as the fault of the drug addicts, when in reality, these are average people who are being targeted by pharmaceutical companies that continue to make billions of dollars. Leaving these people to the justice system has simply overwhelmed it, and the rate of abusers continues to rise. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “Prescription pain reliever overdose deaths among women increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared to 237% among men”. As the focus now shifts to rehabilitation, there is no implication that distribution of the drug by manufactures will slow down, which means it is likely that neither will the overdose rate.
Martin’s report featured an interview with Mike Papantonio, a partner in the law firm that is representing four Ohio counties that are suing pharmaceutical companies for their role in manufacturing the opioid crisis. As Papantonio told Martin, “Big Pharma has operated without any oversight or regulation.”
This epidemic has been covered from many different angles as of today. In October, 2017, the Guardian did a story on how manufacturing companies and their distributors stand to benefit from the opioid crisis, but the uproar mainly consisted of how much these companies are charging for their products; this report did not address how they are the root of the epidemic.
Source: Abby Martin, “Death & Biostitutes-The US Opioid Crisis,” Empire Files (TeleSUR English), November 29. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJjIewjgD1A.
Student Researcher: Zaynah Almaaita (College of Western Idaho)
Faculty Evaluator: Michelle Mahoney (College of Western Idaho)