The Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity collaborated to investigate what type of influence pharmaceutical companies have on state and federal laws regarding opioids. Opioid-based painkillers have reportedly claimed 165,000 lives since 2000.
The two agencies started tracking proposed laws, analyzing data, and determining how allies engaged with lobbyists and contributing to political campaigns, The Associated Press reports. One of the finding shows that over $880 million has been used on lobbying and political contributions over the past decade by Big Pharma. Advocates for opioid limitations spent only $4 million.
1,350 lobbyists and allies cover all 50 state capitals. The investigation also determined that political spending among opioid pharmaceutical companies (and their allies) spend more than 8-times what was spent on gun lobbying efforts in the same time frame.
In terms of the widespread nature of pharma companies contributing to political campaigns, 7,100 state-level candidates received contributions. Governors and state lawmakers received the biggest donations, as they hold more weight in controlling legislative agendas.
Pain Care Forum works quietly with high-ranking health officials within the U.S. government to influence regulations on opioids. Their job is to promote legislation and report issues on problems of untreated pain. Drug makers and opioid-friendly non-profit organizations are all part of this group, including Purdue Pharma who manufactures OxyContin.
The American Cancer Society Action Network and Academy of Integrative Pain management have contacted lawmakers regarding opioid measures in a minimum of 18 states. These contacts were made in states where some cancer patients were exempt from drug restrictions. The frequency of payouts to these organizations from drug makers are made is unclear.
The Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity also found that 26 states have laws related to abuse-deterrent opioids with 21 using language specifically provided by pharmaceutical lobbyists. When these issues come up for discussion to become law, insurers, and pharmacists are given preferential treatment when patent-protected drugs are in question.