NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Majority of Americans blame drug companies for opioid crisis


Fifty-seven percent of Americans believe pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible for making the opioid crisis worse, according to a new poll by NPR and Ipsos.

The poll also found a third of Americans have been touched directly by the opioid epidemic.

"One in three have been personally affected in some way, either by knowing someone who has overdosed or by knowing someone with an opioid addiction," said Mallory Newall, lead Ipsos researcher on the survey.

Dozens of states, including Oklahoma, have filed lawsuits against drug companies, accusing them of causing the opioid epidemic by making fraudulent marketing claims that greatly understated the addictive risks of opioid painkillers while overstating the treatment benefits.

Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against multiple drug companies in 2017 and a trial is scheduled to begin on May 28.

Purdue Pharma, one of the drug companies in the lawsuit, settled with the state for $270 million.

Following the announced settlement, Reggie Whitten, one of the lead outside attorneys hired by the state, said the money would help others avoid the fate of his own son who lost his battle with drug addiction in 2002.

"There's no way to bring back my son," Whitten said last month. "There's no way to bring back anybody who's died from addiction. What we should do, in my humble opinion as a parent who lost a son, is look forward and try to save lives in the future, and that's what this settlement is going to do."

The NPR and Ipsos survey indicates a growing number of Americans agree that drug companies should play a role in preventing future opioid deaths.

The survey found that 70% believe drug companies should pay the cost of addiction treatment services and cover the cost of the drug naloxone, used to revive people who've overdosed.

“The survey shows the majority of Americans agree that these companies knew what they were doing when they knowingly deceived doctors and healthcare providers in order to turn a profit," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement to The Oklahoman.

"The evidence we will present at our trial will show how the companies made billions of dollars, while thousands of individuals across the country died or became addicted. We intend to hold these companies accountable for their role in creating the worst public health crisis the state and nation has ever seen.”

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›