Lawmakers in Washington state get a huge chunk of their campaign cash from donors with ties to the prescription painkiller business.
A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that drugmakers that produce opioid painkillers and allied advocacy groups spent more than $880 million on campaign contributions and lobbying nationwide over the past decade. The money comes from members of the Pain Control Forum — a group that touts prescription opioids as having a vital role in improving the quality of life for millions of Americans.
By comparison, groups advocating for limits on opioid prescriptions spent about $4 million nationwide.
Things to know about political spending by the painkiller industry and opioid use in Washington:
DRUG MONEY: Between 2006 and 2015, members of the Pain Care Forum contributed more than $1.29 million in Washington state. That puts Washington second in the nation for receiving the largest portion of its campaign money from the opioid industry and its allies. Nevada ranked first, and Oregon ranked third.
DRUG LOBBYISTS: There has been an average of about 30 lobbyists a hired each year for the past decade to represent members of the Pain Care Forum in Washington state.
PRESCRIPTIONS: Prescriptions for opioid painkillers are common in Washington state, with more than 4.88 million prescriptions issued in 2015. Put another way, if the prescriptions were distributed evenly, two out of every three people in the state would have opioids on hand.
DRUG DEATHS: Washington drug deaths increased about 9 percent between 2006 and 2014, with a total of 8,703 deaths during that period. Though the drug death data isn’t limited to opioids, the CDC has indicated that prescription opioids and heroin account for the majority of drug deaths.