The Washington Post has published a massive database that tracks the distribution of opioids in the United States from 2006 to 2012, specifically where — and how many — drugs materialized.
During that period, 76 billion prescription pain pills were shipped to pharmacies all over the country, fueling a public health epidemic that killed 100,000 Americans in those seven years.
Policymakers are using this data to understand the sheer scope of the crisis, and many are demanding accountability.
Several Democratic presidential hopefuls — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Kamala Harris of California, as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock — tweeted about the data revealed by the Post.
Warren and Castro accused Big Pharma of “corporate greed.” Warren also promoted her legislation to invest $100 billion of dedicated funding over 10 years to combat the epidemic, which hasn’t gained any traction in Congress.
Harris said, “It’s past time we hold pharmaceutical companies accountable.”
Klobuchar called it “disturbing” and shared a quote from internal emails included in a court filing showing a drug company employee comparing the pills to “Doritos” that people “keep eating.”
Bullock focused his ire on the influence Big Pharma’s deep pockets have on Washington.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is also running for president, was asked about this data during a Washington Post Live event, specifically whether he’d want his Justice Department to prosecute drug companies.
“My Department of Justice will go after these folks, these pharmaceutical companies that have been fueling this opioid crisis where it was an intentional strategy to juice the addiction of Americans to this drug, causing our life expectancy as a nation to go down,” Booker said. “This is criminal behavior, immoral behavior and my DOJ will go after it.”
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow dedicated a lengthy segment Friday night to the searchable, county-by-county opioid database. Maddow broke down some of the statistics for her viewers.
“As the opioid crisis lit the country on fire and the death rates started skyrocketing and the country started freaking out about it, over the course of those seven years from 2006 to 2012, while 100,000 Americans were killed from those drugs, we can now tell they kept upping the number they were shipping every year,” Maddow said.
“By 2012, they were shipping on average 36 highly addictive pain pills for every man, woman and child and baby in the United States,” Maddow added.
Amy McGrath, the Democrat hoping to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, used the Post’s database Thursday to assail McConnell’s ties to drug companies.
McConnell, who has been majority or minority leader since 2007, did not comment on the Post’s database.
But about 90 minutes after McGrath’s tweet, he shared news that drug overdose deaths fell in Kentucky in 2018, the same year Congress passed its first comprehensive bipartisan opioid legislation and 12 years since the drug companies opened the floodgates.