The U.S. continues to break the worst possible records. This country stands at the front of the COVID pandemic with the highest number of deaths in the world at over 800,000. During a 12-month period ending in November 2021, another 100,000 people in the U.S. have died due to drug overdoses, the highest yearly number ever.
Roughly 64% of the drug overdoses were caused by the use of opioids, in particular the highly dangerous synthetic opioid, Fentanyl, which saw a nearly 50% increase in use. The COVID pandemic has only made matters worse, exacerbating pre-existing conditions such as poverty and mental health issues. But this opioid epidemic has been plaguing the U.S. for decades and whoever has been running the government has failed to address it, protecting the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies while millions become victim to their predatory practices.
Opioid use and addiction have been present in the U.S. for a long time, but it has never taken such a high toll. It wasn’t until the 1990s when a shift took hold of the medical community, making pain management a priority focus for doctors and supported by the government, that the promotion of use of opioids for pain management became widespread. Pharmaceutical companies promoted the use of these drugs and deliberately greatly understated the risk of addiction.
One drug, Oxycontin, was at the center of this, and its producer, Purdue Pharma, spent millions of dollars manipulating information, buying off government officials, including in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and getting millions of people hooked on their deadly drug. It wasn’t until 2020 that a federal court indicted Purdue Pharma for its illegal activity and its responsibility in creating this deadly epidemic. But the billionaire Sackler family who owns Purdue Pharma and profited immensely from the widespread distribution of opioids has been granted immunity from opioid lawsuits, basically letting them off the hook for what should rightfully be a murder trial of the hundreds of thousands of people who have died so they could make money.
The capitalist system cannot respond to a crisis that it itself has created. To continue to stack their profits, pharmaceutical companies, and those in the government responsible for overseeing them, are willing to let hundreds of thousands die (just in the U.S.) and continue to break deadly records.