In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, it might be easy to forget about other public health crises we face. The opioid epidemic doesn’t rely on physical contact to infect people and isn’t spread through the air; however, it is an illness that has infected many people and killed close to half a million in the U.S. since 1999. 128 people die of an opioid overdose every day in America, and although it’s far below the daily fatality rate for COVID-19, it’s no less gruesome.
This opioid epidemic emerged from pharmaceutical companies developing highly addictive pain medications while understating the potential for addiction, as well as doctors working as “Pill Mills,” writing seemingly endless prescriptions for these opioids to patients at risk for dependency. Pharmacies like those inside of Walmart stores are one major example of the negligence companies have for patients suffering with addiction. Many pharmacists recognized warning signs from the number of prescriptions and tried to alert supervisors and corporate offices, but these whistleblowers were largely suppressed and some even fired for their concerns.
Many lives have been lost to both of these epidemics. We know the culprits of the opioid crisis. PurduePharma, producer of OxyContin, has made over $12 billion from this drug alone. And although PurduePharma is facing criminal charges, will plead guilty to multiple felony counts of wrongdoing, and settled for $8.3 billion in bankruptcy court, there’s essentially no justice to be had for the people who have died or otherwise had their lives ruined because of the greed and negligence of this pharmaceutical company.