Whistleblower says drug distributors pumped opioids into American communities – knowing that people were dying – and says industry lobbyists and the U.S. Congress derailed the country’s Drug Enforcement Agency’s efforts to stop it.
Fueled by the rise of prescription drugs such as fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, as well as its deadly analogues such as carfentanil, a chemical so lethal in miniscule amounts that it is said to present a potential terrorism threat, drug overdose deaths are now occurring at an average of one every ten minutes in the United States. Accordingly, with over 2 million Americans estimated to be dependent on opioids, switching a user’s dependency from one drug to another is seen by the pharma industry as a highly profitable business opportunity.
In an example of such profiteering, the biopharmaceutical company Alkermes has been marketing its $1,000 a shot opioid addiction injection, Vivitrol, directly to judges. As a result, by presenting opioid addicts with the stark choice of either going to jail or joining an injection program, drug courts have helped annual sales of Vivitrol rise by almost 700 percent since 2011, reaching a total of $209 million in 2016.