What will Big Pharma, the criminal behind the opioid epidemic, pay for?

By Ashley Bunton - Staff Columnist

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I was thinking about the idea Portland is taking on to establish a safe injection site for its addicts. Imagine a building in which addicts could go to “get their fix” and if they overdosed, they could be injected with an overdose reversal drug by a nurse on the premises. And perhaps instead of having them inhabit and destroy neighborhoods, they could be under house arrest in designated housing areas for addicts.

Mass incarceration in jails and prisons is not working to solve the problem of opioid addiction and it is not working because addiction is a socio-medical problem, not a criminal justice problem.

Let’s consider what taxpayers are paying for in this socio-medical problem: the welfare a person receives after a period of addiction in which they lose their employment; the fire department who sends the emergency medical technicians to respond to the overdose; the police who respond to the scene; the medication for overdose reversal; the housing of the person as an inmate in jail after they overdose or commit a drug-related crime; the treatment and recovery from addiction; the care for their children, if they have any, to be placed in foster care, and so on.

Many hard-working, taxpaying people pay all of these bills everyday. And who does not pay the bill? The international pharmaceutical drug manufacturing companies.

Big Pharma pushed their opioid pain medications into the hands of the unknowing public, using doctors as their proxies to get people addicted. The doctors now admit that they were never properly trained in how to counsel patients when prescribing opioid medications for pain.

Then those people later turned to heroin after Big Pharma raised the prices and tightened their belt. Big Pharma monopolizes and colludes prices, pays for advertising and inflates prices to the consumers in order to make profit.

Pharmaceuticals have been one of the most profitable businesses since the 1960s. In 1965, the manufacturing of drugs had the highest profits of 30 other types of manufacturing industries, including higher than that of the gas and oil industries. Today, pharmaceutical corporations make more in profits than car manufacturers, banks, oil and gas industries and news media, according to Forbes.

In an article in The New Yorker in 1964, it was reported that 22 firms controlled “90 percent of the total volume of business done by the drug industry.” Today, less than half that number of firms control 90 percent of the drug industry.

Today we see the same drug manufacturers who bent the laws to flood our society with legal synthetic heroin are now the same manufacturers who are providing the overdose reversal drugs. They get paid three times, round their tax returns off to the nearest millionth of a dollar and pay very little or no taxes.

Sometimes, people say that the problem of the heroin epidemic will not go away as long as there is a demand. But it is quite the opposite. If there was never a supply of it to begin with, nobody would have developed cravings for it.

Big Pharma created the socio-medical problems of opioid drug addiction that we are seeing today. Without a supply of prescription drugs, hundreds of thousands of prescription drug addicts who turned to heroin would never have been created in the first place.

When communities and neighbors come together to talk about the opioid epidemic, they often feel powerless because there does not seem to be a straight-forward solution to how wide and vast this problem of heroin addiction is.

It’s so much bigger than the heroin epidemic in the 1960s because this present addiction epidemic was created with the legal manufacturing of opioids and synthetic heroin by Big Pharma, and was legally and widely prescribed by doctors who were uncertain as to how dangerous the synthetic heroin would become.

These synthetic heroin dealers are setting up shops on every other street corner in every community. I was checking the laws and I cannot find where a city ordinance was passed to allow the commercial sale of synthetic heroin by the international brick boys association of pharmaceutical drug manufacturing.

Today, the addicts are stigmatized and blamed, and severe punishment is placed on the addicts and the street-level dope peddlers. But it’s not a criminal problem in the sense that it was created by criminal addicts and street-level dope peddlers. It’s a socio-medical problem created by Big Pharma. Big Pharma is the criminal.

Big Pharma, with the billions of dollars in profits it makes from manufacturing, distributing and selling synthetic heroin and overdose reversal drugs, can pay for safe injection sites, rehabilitation, therapy, transitional housing, overdose reversal drugs, increased law enforcement for drug-related crimes, emergency medical services for drug-related illnesses, prevention in schools, new jails, and funerals.

What would happen if taxpayers, family members and communities charged Big Pharma with murder, negligence and homicide?

A little bit of progress is being made now by communities who are banding together, taking on Big Pharma and demanding accountability. Some of these class action lawsuits may be successful. Historically we know that the only way marginalized identity groups undermined by systems of oppressive regimentation have ever achieved change is through lawsuits.

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By Ashley Bunton

Staff Columnist

Ashley can be emailed at abunton@civitasmedia.com, reached by phone at (740) 313-0355 or found on Twitter by searching for @ashbunton

Ashley can be emailed at abunton@civitasmedia.com, reached by phone at (740) 313-0355 or found on Twitter by searching for @ashbunton