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Investigation: Drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid crisis




The National Safety Council says more Americans are dying by accident, and opioid abuse is one of the leading causes.
The National Safety Council says more Americans are dying by accident, and opioid abuse is one of the leading causes.
Toby Talbot/AP

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A recent investigation by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity looked at the influence of the pharmaceutical lobby on the nation's response to the opioid epidemic in the U.S. and found that it often contributed to delays in policy and fought limits and regulations on the drugs.

According to the report, drugmakers have employed hundreds of lobbyists and spent millions on campaign contributions to suppress measures aimed at fighting the nation's prescription opioid epidemic.

Opioids are similar to heroin and are prescribed to help manage pain, but they have been linked to a rise in overdose deaths, including that of pop megastar Prince earlier this year.

Here's more from the Associated Press:

The drugmakers vow they're combating the addiction epidemic, but The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that they often employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on their drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl, the narcotic linked to Prince's death.

The industry and its allies spent more than $880 million nationwide on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2006 through 2015 — more than 200 times what those advocating for stricter policies spent and eight times more than the influential gun lobby recorded for similar activities during that same period, the AP and Center for Public Integrity found.

The drugmakers and allied advocacy groups — such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network — also employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in state capitals from Olympia to Tallahassee during that span, when opioids' addictive nature came under increasing scrutiny.

The pharmaceutical companies and allied groups have a number of legislative interests in addition to opioids that account for a portion of their political activity, but their steady presence in state capitals means they're poised to jump in quickly on any debate that affects them.

Alex Cohen spoke to the AP's Geoff Mulvihill, one of the reporters on the story. Click the blue player button to listen to the full interview.