LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Blaming pharmaceutical companies for opioid crisis is wrong

I have watched with interest news reporting of the opioid crisis as I have had first-hand experience and fought opioid abuse before it became popular as head of security and loss prevention of the now-defunct Keltsch Pharmacies. As it appears, governments are attacking the issue as usual in the most inefficient manner. The lawsuits against Big Pharma are about money and have little to do with public health.

There are two ways to acquire opioids: legally and illegally. The legal method is to obtain these drugs via a doctor directly or by a prescription at a pharmacy. It is fairly rare to hear about doctors or pharmacists being arrested for illegally or negligently dispensing opioids to drug dealers or end users.

If it can be proven that Big Pharma is directly supplying end users or illegal drug dealers, then I would agree that some form of punishment is due. I sincerely doubt that is the case. Complaints that Big Pharma is promoting use of their product are laughable. What company doesn’t promote its products?

If there was a sharp increase in drunk driving injuries or deaths, suing automobile manufacturers is not the solution. Corporations do not pay taxes, fines or civil penalties, the users of their products or services do. Large cash settlements against drug manufacturers will merely raise the prices on drugs across the board. The DEA’s outdated computers track opioid distribution from the manufacturers. A sharp increase to a city, county or state should be immediately noted with less computing power than an Apple Watch uses. Doctors and pharmacies are many and drug manufacturers are few so governments are aiming at the easy deep-pocket target.

Illegal sales are a large part of the problem, yet the trend is to reduce sentences for those convicted of these crimes because they are “non-violent offenders”. The opioids sold illegally are obtained mainly from robberies, burglaries or smuggling via our porous borders. Drug manufacturers giving billions of dollars to local or state governments, or to the federal government will not reduce robberies, burglaries or smuggling. It will increase all drug prices for those who have a legitimate need.

Dennis L. Cooley

New Haven