For decades, the opioid epidemic has ravaged American communities, driving tens of thousands of people into horrifying downward spirals of addiction and killing nearly 65,000 Americans every year.
While Republicans would like to blame drug cartels from South America for the crisis, since it fits in neatly in their xenophobic anti-immigration narratives, the blame lies much closer to home.
The same pharmaceutical companies and the top executives responsible for the horrendously over-inflated price of life-saving medication in this country are the engineers and the perpetrators of a grand conspiracy to flood the nation with addictive opioid painkillers and reaping enormous profits from it.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has proposed a landmark bill that would impose ten years of jail time for the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies that have been found to have actively contributed to the opioid crisis. Those found guilty would lose their lavish compensation packages and the companies fined $7.8 billion – one-tenth of the epidemic’s annual cost.
It is stunning how rare it is to see one of our politicians not only have the courage and the conviction to call out those responsible but also to make the effort to take substantial and desperately needed action to rectify the situation and to make sure that those responsible get what they deserve, even if it’s just a proposal for a bill that might never pass.
The Department of Justice is just beginning to scratch the surface of how our morally repugnant for-profit healthcare system enabled greedy capitalists to artificially create one of the most devastating public health crises our nation has ever seen.
John Kapoor, the CEO of Insys Pharmaceuticals, was recently indicted by the DOJ for “a nationwide conspiracy to profit by using bribes and fraud to cause the illegal distribution of a fentanyl spray intended for cancer patients experiencing breakthrough pain,” pressuring and paying off doctors to prescribe the addictive drug to people who didn’t have cancer and didn’t need painkillers – and that’s just the beginning.
A recent report from the West Virginia Gazette exposes the deliberate fashion in which poor towns were literally flooded with more opioid drugs than anyone could ever need:
“In 2005 and 2006, for instance, McKesson shipped nearly 5 million doses of prescription painkillers to a now-shuttered pharmacy in Kermit, a town with 400 people, according to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee.
Between 2006 and 2014, McKesson also shipped a total of 5.8 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to a small pharmacy in Mount Gay, population 1,800. The company supplied another 2.3 million prescription painkillers to the Logan County drugstore’s branch location in Stollings, just 3 miles away, according to the House committee investigating McKesson and other drug shippers.”
This is an outrage of the highest magnitude that deserves swift and severe consequences for those responsible. The toll of the countless lives that have been destroyed, the relationships ruined, the emotional trauma and the heartbreak and anguish that the families and loved ones of those who fell to chemical dependency is sadly unquantifiable.
However, we can put a number on the billions upon billions of dollars that these sociopathic pharmaceutical jackals have racked up by knowingly and legally flooding our nation dangerously addictive drugs. It’s far past time they paid the price for their colossal crimes.
Lock. Them. Up.