The catastrophic consequences of the opiate epidemic in the United States are visible across the nation as death tolls mount daily. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), since 2000 the percentage of those who have died from opioids alone increased by 200%. The CDC further reported that 91 Americans die every day from an opiate overdose, the rate having quadrupled since 1999 resulting in the deaths of four times as many Americans as died in the conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq-Afghanistan. A total of more than half a million people in the United States have died from a drug overdose.
A handful of big drug manufacturers may be held responsible for this tragic epidemic. Production of opioid medications such as Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Percocet and Fentanyl have engaged in a deliberate propagation of these highly addictive medications, posting exorbitant profits while the public at large pays the cost. The CDC noted in 2010 that, ““non-medical use of prescription painkillers costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health care costs.” In that year alone, manufacturers of these analgesic pain-killers racked up more than $11 billion in profits.
The Chief Culprits for a Nation Awash in Dope
Among the chief culprits for this public health care tragedy is Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, which may be viewed as a legalized version of heroin. No other company has played a more direct role in the marketing of a product which has played a more central role in the pain-killer epidemic which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans. According to Purdue’s web-site,
“We are pursuing a promising pipeline of new medications through internal research & development and strategic industry partnerships. At Purdue Pharma, we embrace our mission to find, develop, and introduce innovative medicines that meet the evolving needs of healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers.”
Whose behind the company that has helped kill more Americans than Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabbab, ISIS and the Viet Cong combined? Meet, the Sackler brothers; Arthur (d. 1987), Mortimer (d. 2010) and Raymond, who died this year. In 1952 the Sacklers purchased Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Purdue was responsible for the production and relentless marketing of the Oxycontin in the United States.
In July, 2017, Forbes magazine reported that the Sackler family, comprised of 20 members, represented the 19th wealthiest family in the United States with an estimated net worth of around 13 billion dollars. This family of drug dealers dwarfs any cartel and they’ve certainly made a great deal more money and yet they will of course never be held accountable. Free to enjoy their ill-gotten gains while hundreds of thousands suffer and die.
Yet while Purdue is perhaps the most identifiable culprit, they are by no means alone. Other producers of opiate-based pain-killers include; Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Allergan.
It has been noted that at the height of the opiate-prescribing fiasco more than 254 million prescriptions for opioids were handed out in the United States–enough to keep every American on opiates for a month, round-the-clock.
We Wonder, “Where were our Legislators”?
In May, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) turned down appointment by the Trump Administration to head up the Office of National Drug Control Policy. According to Marino his decision to turn down the appointment was, “Due to a critical illness in my family”. The assertion was, simply put, utter crap.
The real reason Marino had to nod out revolved around mounting criticism for his role in the push and passage of the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016” This piece of legislation effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) ability to rein in Big Pharmaceutical companies efforts to continue to proliferate opioids in the United States. The Washington Post provided a detailed recounting of the legislation’s trajectory and consequences.\
The Senate version of the Bill passed unanimously. While GOP legislators led the charge on this debacle, leading Democrats also voted, across the board, for the legislation. From Cory Booker to Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, Democratic leadership all laid down on this one at the behest of Big Pharma—they all took the money and failed to pay attention. Those of us on the Liberal-Progressive end of the political spectrum should by no means or measure grant them a pass on this one. They are all culpable and there’s simply no excuse.
The next time you see alarmist campaign commercials featuring photos of Mexican drug cartel members or young black men selling dime-bags do one thing: Remember that, in comparative terms and sheer scale, they are small fry. The big drug-dealers are legit and they are doing what they’re doing with the tacit approval of your elected representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike. This year alone more Americans will die from opiate overdoses than died during the 16 years of the Global War on Terror. We need to ask who the greatest slayers of American citizens really are…and they ain’t goatherds living in Helmand Province. It really is that simple.