Report: Big Pharma Is Buying Protection from Capitol Hill
It’s no secret that as far as the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are concerned, legalized cannabis really isn’t a good thing. Why exactly? Well, quite simply because the easier it is for people to access cannabis for medical purposes, the less call there is for expensive and often dangerous lab-made drugs. Which in turn means that in countries and states where cannabis gets the green light, the bottom lines of big pharma can potentially take a huge hit.
Just recently, it became apparent than in several North American states where medical cannabis legalization is back on the agenda, pharmaceutical companies are throwing huge sums of cash behind the ‘no’ campaign. Backing anti-cannabis groups with hundreds of thousands of dollars for mass marketing campaigns, they justify their actions by stating that they’re looking out for the best interests of both future generations and communities in general. In addition, they talk of the importance of only FDA-approved drugs being allowed into circulation.
This, despite the fact that some of them produce the most harmful and addictive drugs known to man.
So there’s a lot of hypocrisy to say the least when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, but according to a new report published this week, it’s no coincidence they have a habit of getting away with murder.
Part of the Problem?
Right now, America’s opioid epidemic is going from bad to worse. Addiction and overdose-related death rates are climbing dramatically, while frantic efforts to bring things under control appear to be falling on deaf ears. Some blame ease of access to opioid painkillers, others point the finger of blame at widespread poverty and poor healthcare. But at the same time, there are those who suggest that it is in fact the biggest names in pharmaceuticals themselves that are at least partially to blame for the problem.
Quite simply, lobbyists working for big pharma in Washington D.C. are throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at the US government, in order to buy protection directly from Capitol Hill.
In order to assess just how extensive the alleged corruption really is, the Center for Public Integrity joined forces with the Associated Press to carry out an investigation. They discovered that the companies producing drugs like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin have collectively handed more than $880 million over to senators and representatives in every single North American state, as a means by which to ensure new measures restricting distribution of an access to opioids do not come into force. The report points out that this is around 800% more than the amount spent by gun lobbyists.
Unsurprisingly, those backing stricter controls and legislation on opioids do not have nearly the same kind of cash to throw the way of state senators. In total, the push for policy changes has so far seen around $4 million spent on the cause.
The Pain Care Forum
The investigation focused primarily on the Pain Care Forum – a highly influential organisation made up of hundreds of pharmaceutical companies. In order to ensure they get their own way when it comes to legislation and restrictions on the drugs they produce, they all throw millions of dollars into a hat that eventually makes its way to the government. Both at a federal and state level, the group seems to know exactly what to do to keep the rules working in their favour.
According to the investigation’s findings, more than 7,100 politicians have to date been paid off by the group, which was initially founded by Purdue Pharma lobbyist Burt Rosen. They have essentially been targeting those that stand between proposed legislative policies and their actual enactment, in order to ensure that nothing gets in their way of their wider business aims. By preventing the issues being brought to the floor to be debated in the first place, they are given precisely zero chance of being enacted.
Cannabis Against Opioids
To say that cannabis is a thorn in the side of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies would probably be something of an understatement. But as far as the greater good is concerned, evidence suggests that cannabis legalization is having a beneficial impact on opioid abuse rates in some of America’s worst-affected regions. Evidence suggests that in certain places where cannabis has been legalized, prescription painkiller abuse and addiction rates are falling dramatically. In addition, a number of trials where medical cannabis has been used to help treat recovering addicts have produced extremely reassuring results.
But it’s not only those with dangerous addictions that are using fewer opioids where cannabis is legal. A number of studies have shown that across the wider population in general, states and communities where cannabis has been legalized have seen a marked reduction in painkiller sales and use. Which immediately gives weight to the theory that as far as big pharma is concerned, spending plenty of cash to keep cannabis off the streets really isn’t a bad idea. And as already touched upon a little earlier, that’s exactly what seems to be happening.
While this particular investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press didn’t look directly at the cannabis issue, a recent donation from one of the industry’s biggest names painted the clearest possible picture. Over in Arizona, residents are set to hit the ballot box this coming November for a critical vote on the future of cannabis. Polls have suggested for some time that the public in general is in favour of cannabis legalization, making it pretty likely that the pro-cannabis camp will win. But at the same time, those fighting its legalization are putting up one hell of a fight – not to mention a fight backed by a fair few big name investors.
One such investor being Insys therapeutics, which recently threw a whopping $500,000 the way of the anti-cannabis camp. When asked for their reasons, they said it was a case of looking after the best interests of the public. Suffice to say, anyone with half a brain could easily figure out that it’s really nothing more than a business decision to help ensure people have no choice but to keep buying their drugs. In other states, anti-legalization campaign groups have refused to disclose where their campaign cash has come from, saying they’ll do so closer to the vote itself. Which once again tells you all you need to know about what’s really going on.
Prescription Painkiller Plague
You really only have to look at the numbers to see just how critical the situation in the US is right now. Over recent years, the number of prescription drug overdose deaths per year in many regions has continually climbed and there are no firm signs of any real changes to come. According to the official figures published by the CDC, somewhere in the region 165,000 people died between 1999 and 2014, directly as a result of prescription painkiller overdoses. 2014 proved to be a catastrophic year in its own right, with more than 14,000 deaths recorded across the US. As for addiction rates, it’s impossible to come up with an accurate figure as the vast majority of addicts don’t tend to come forward in order to be counted. However, the CDC estimates that a minimum of 2 million Americans are right now battling potentially deadly prescription painkiller addictions.
All of which makes the federal government’s stance on medical marijuana all the more interesting…not to mention annoying. They seem to have no problem in allowing the streets to be flooded with the kinds of lab-made drugs that are killing hundreds of thousands of their own citizens. But at the same time, they refuse to budge when it comes to an incredibly beneficial medical product that has never been directly linked with a single death. We’re heading for an era where a sizeable majority of all US states permit marijuana to be used in one form or another, yet it still remains a Schedule 2 Narcotic at a federal level. Which in simple terms means it’s still illegal – even though it’s being made legal across most of the country.
Confused? So are most Americans – it just doesn’t make sense.
Well, it sort of begins to make sense when you glance again at that $880 million that’s been handed over by pharmaceutical companies looking out for their own interests. It’s not like the pro-cannabis camp can come up with this kind of cash, otherwise we might be looking at a different story entirely. The government could almost immediately start collecting billions in tax dollars if cannabis was given the green light, but chances are not enough of the windfall would make it directly into the pockets of state senators.
So for the meantime, it’s difficult to know what to expect going forwards. The evidence is there in black and white, experts are speaking out in record numbers and the public is no longer willing to buy into outdated hype, hypocrisy and propaganda. Nevertheless, just as long as sums of money like this are being doled out, it’s unlikely lawmakers will give even the slightest damn what the public thinks. Or what’s in the public’s best interests, for that matter.