Editorial

Pharmaceutical companies not alone in blame for opioid crisis

Friday, February 9, 2018

President Trump has declared opioid abuse a national emergency, and as usual, the lawyers were quick to get involved.

More than 100 states and cities have filed more than 250 federal lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and distributors of the opioid epidemic.

A U.S. district judge in Ohio is overseeing the lawsuits, which many plaintiffs hope will result in a payout similar to the 1998 tobacco settlement.

The companies agreed to pay $206 billion to 46 states over a 25-year period ó funding that resulted in the creation of the area health department that serves Southwest Nebraska as well as many other efforts to counteract the effects of smoking.

Our communities have felt as much or more damage from opioids as they have from tobacco.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 42,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016, and a higher number is expected to be tallied for 2017 once all the data is in.

Deaths and arrests related to highly addictive painkillers appear in the news daily, with drugs like Oxycontin, Vicodin, their generic equivalents and deadly street drugs like fentanyl and heroin involved.

Certainly, companies that produce the painkillers have some culpability and deserve to be in court, but governmental policies that helped create the crisis wonít be hauled before a judge.

Pain control was overemphasized a few years ago, with health care providers penalized if patients reported dissatisfaction with that aspect of their treatment. Naturally, painkillers were prescribed to relieve pain, but also to avoid financial penalties for the providers involved.

It wouldnít be much of a stretch to connect drug companiesí political influence to national pain policies, but it is difficult to hold the bureaucracy creating the regulations accountable.

Go in for dental work or a medical procedure, and you may notice your doctors arenít quite as quick to prescribe opioids and may deliver a short lecture when they do.

And thatís a good thing.

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