Even if we can't picture the scale of Big Pharma's greedy role in the addiction crisis gripping West Virginia, the human disaster grabs us.
In the half-dozen years leading up to 2012, drug distributors shipped nearly 800 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia, a state with a population of only 1.8 million.
The huge numbers may be hard to wrap our heads around. But the direct impact on individual families, from adults to newborns, is terribly easy to see everywhere you look.
The state, for instance, is experiencing a huge increase in babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Babies born with NAS come into the world experiencing drug withdrawal-like symptoms and an increase in diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.
Here is an easier number to grasp: West Virginia newborns are born with NAS at SIX times the national average. These details come from a hard-to-read April 29, 2019 story by Erin Beck in Beckley’s Register-Herald:
“These infants will spend weeks in neonatal intensive care units while they painfully withdraw from the drugs – a process so painful that it traps many adults on opioids,” the article states.
That is a quote from a lawsuit Beck describes, filed at the end of April against pharmaceutical companies and drug stores on behalf 25 West Virginia hospitals.
The suit “accuses the companies of peddling their pills in single-minded pursuit of profit, leaving local hospitals to revive the bodies, treat the babies born with symptoms of withdrawal, and pay for the care for those with lives too devastated to pay for it on their own.”
In short, the addiction crisis in the Mountain State, fed by profit-hungry out-of-state firms, is now taxing the resources of our healthcare system, threatening the ability of hospitals “to provide quality health care to anyone in need.”
It is time state and federal politicians stand up to Big Pharma — and stand up for their constituents.
Photo by Hush Naidoo | unsplash.com