DOVER, Del. — As overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have soared in recent years, members of a loose coalition of drug manufacturers and allied advocacy groups have donated more than $500,000 to state and federal elected officials and political parties in Delaware. Here is a closer look at some of the numbers regarding political contributions by the pharmaceutical industry in Delaware and opioid-related prescriptions and overdoses:
Drug companies and allied groups affiliated with the Pain Care Forum gave just under $160,000 to state candidates and parties in Delaware between 2006 and 2015. When contributions to federal candidates are included, the total rises to more than $536,000.
Delaware ranked 13th among all states in state-level political contributions from the pharmaceutical industry from 2006 through 2015, based on the ratio of industry contributions to all state-level contributions in the time period.
Current and former members of Delaware’s congressional delegation received the vast majority of contributions, a total of more than $379,000. Democrats at all levels received a combined total of more than $467,000, compared to $69,000 for Republicans. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper led all individual recipients with more than $137,000, followed by U.S. Sen. Chris Coons with almost $120,000.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade association, was the biggest single donor to state and federal candidates and parties in Delaware, with $126,900 in campaign contributions. Pfizer Inc. made just under $89,000 in political donations, followed by Abbott Laboratories with $59,500. Merck & Co. made $47,850 in political donations during the period, with $37,125 in contributions from Eli Lilly & Co. Abbott spun off its U.S. pharmaceutical operation in 2013 and no longer lobbies on related issues.
There were 1,236 reported deaths from drug overdoses in Delaware between 2006 and 2014. Between 2006 and 2014, overdose drug deaths rose 142 percent, the second-highest growth rate in the country, behind only North Dakota.
Delaware’s death rate per 100,000 people was 20.2 in 2014, higher than the rate in all but eight other states.
While the overdose deaths were not limited to opioids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that prescription opioids and heroin account for the majority of drug deaths.
There were just under 769,000 opioid prescriptions issued in Delaware in 2015, down from about 814,680 in 2014 and 823,500 in 2013. Delaware’s prescription rate per capita rate in 2015 was 0.81, compared to the national rate of 0.71.