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Opioid Epidemic: This is the time for action.

Opioid Epidemic: This is the time for action.

When Rush Limbaugh needed help to kick his Oxycontin addiction, he had the money to check into a clinic. Despite the amazing people who work in Vermont’s recovery movement, most residents do not have access to a level of treatment to get back on their feet. Pharmaceutical treatment – another big Medicaid handout to drug companies – can help, but rehab costs $5,000 to $15,000 for most people, and all of our systems are currently underfunded.

Vermont’s representatives must join the fight to address the opioid epidemic at its source: pharmaceutical companies. Now is the time to hold Purdue and the rest accountable for what they have done. Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, California and Rhode Island have all initiated lawsuits over the pharmaceutical industry’s false, deceptive, and unfair marketing and/or unlawful diversion of prescription drugs. This is a story of corruption in league with the pre-lawsuit tobacco industry, and the Corporate Democrats stand on the sideline awkwardly stuffing money into their pockets.

Furthermore we need to levy an addictive pharmaceutical tax on the distributors to subsidize a network of treatment centers. Any pharmaceutical shown to lead to addiction – Vicodin, OxyContin, OxyCodone, Demerol, Percocet, Darvocet, even Amphetamines – should be taxed to address the negative effects on society created by those substances. We face a major health crisis, one driving down the life expectancy rate in the US. Now is the time for action.
Where does your Congressperson stand on taxing and regulating the pharmaceutical industry?
Now, I know Peter Welch is a good man and would never intentionally wish to harm teenagers by feeding them drugs, but that is the trade-off corporate Democrats make to fund the campaigns. 

According to VTDigger, “In total, during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles,” Vermont Representative Peter Welch received “about $76,000” from pharmaceutical  lobbyists. VTDigger goes on to say Welch received an additional $27,000 directly from pharmaceutical distribution companies.  

Then in 2016, Welch co-sponsored a bill written as a part of a larger effort by the pharmaceutical lobby to curtail the use of “immediate suspension orders.” According to The Washington Post, the law “Makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies.” In other words, when the DEA believes that opioids are being diverted to the black market, they are now blocked by statute from any effort to stop them. If the DEA discovers that 1,000,000 hits of Fentanyl are going to a town that has a population of 1000, the law eliminates the tool once employed to freeze that account.  
Here is the Washington Post story.

We know the pharmaceutical industry paid for favorable research and opioid promotional campaigns leading to increased prescription of opioids nationally. Furthermore, the resulting increased rates of addiction have been documented  since 2007. (Ballantyne and LaForge).
For Ten years we have watched it grow and have been paralyzed to do anything. Over that decade, I have watched former students and friends of all generations turn to opioids and never recover. It is a horrible epidemic and stands as a glaring example of why the profit motive is not appropriate in critical services. Medicine is not a consumer good; it is a basic human need. In a public system, we would invest in treatment centers where addicts could find a stable place to get clean.  

In the private system, doctors are paid to promote increased usage, and the drug companies profit off the epidemic. As long as elected officials are beholden to the donor class, there will remain those who believe themselves entitled to profit off our medical care. Pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, medical manufacturing – all large conglomerates extracting profits from the suffering of the population. There are conference rooms full of well educated people collaboratively brainstorming ways to suck out ever more profit. 

Committee to Elect Ben Mitchell
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