The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, which are at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 American lives and pushed many more to crippling addiction, the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity report.. The drug makers vow they’re combatting the addiction epidemic, but they employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that fight limits on drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and fentanyl. Between 2006 and 2015, drug makers spent more than $880 million nationwide on lobbying and campaign contributions, more than 200 times what those advocating for stricter policies spent. It’s more than eight times what the formidable gun lobby recorded for advancing its agenda.
Collectively, the drugmakers and allied advocacy groups employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in legislative hubs from 2006 through 2015, when opioids’ addictive nature came under increasing scrutiny. “The opioid lobby has been doing everything it can to preserve the status quo of aggressive prescribing,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and an outspoken advocate for opioid reform. “They are reaping enormous profits from aggressive prescribing.” The industry and its allies have not been alone in fighting restrictions on opioids. Powerful doctors’ groups in several states argue that lawmakers should not tell them how to practice medicine.