Prescription drug makers spent more than $880 million on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2006-2015 and employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists, Liz Essley Whyte, Geoff Mulvihill and Ben Wieder report for the Center for Public Integrity. Groups fighting for tighter prescription restrictions spent about $4 million on political contributions and lobbying and employed an average of eight state lobbyists each year. (Center for Public Integrity graphic)
Analysis by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that drug makers “often employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on the drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl,” Whyte, Mulvihill and Wieder write. They have created “a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids.”
One problem is that for years groups, such as Pain Care Forum, have touted the vital role of painkillers to lawmakers, Wieder and Matthew Perrone report in a separate story. In 2012 drug makers and Pain Care Forum affiliates sent a study to U.S. senators that estimated that “more than 100 million Americans—roughly 40 percent of adults— suffered from chronic pain… Few knew the report stemmed from legislation drafted and pushed by forum members and that their experts had helped author it.”
The groups failed to mention drug overdoses tied to prescription painkillers, Wieder and Perrone write. “Deaths linked to addictive drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet had increased more than fourfold since 1999, accounting for more fatal overdoses in 2012 than heroin and cocaine combined.”
The Center for Public Integrity and AP investigation found “similar feedback loops of information and influence play out regularly in the nation’s capital, fueled by money and talking points from the Pain Care Forum, a loose coalition of drugmakers, trade groups and dozens of nonprofits supported by industry funding that has flown under the radar until now,” Wieder and Perrone write.
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