Hundred dollar bills rolled up in a pill bottle

To Address the Overdose Epidemic, Tackle Pharma Industry Influence

By Liza Vertinsky

A recently released government report estimates that 93,000 people died from drug overdose in 2020. This estimate reflects a jump in the death toll of almost 30% from 2019 to 2020, with opioids as a primary driver.

In response, President Biden has called for historic levels of funding for the treatment and prevention of addiction and drug overdose.

Transforming mental health and addiction services is a critical part of tackling the overdose crisis, but it is not enough, on its own, to address this epidemic, or to prevent a future one. We must also alter the conditions that fueled expanded use, and abuse, in the first place. As I argue in Pharmaceutical (Re)capture, a forthcoming article in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics, this includes a change in how we regulate markets for prescription drugs.

To truly combat the epidemic, I suggest, we have to understand how pain became such a lucrative business and how regulators failed to protect the public health as the market for prescription opioids grew. Then, we need to put this understanding to work in the redesign of pharmaceutical regulation.

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Bill of Health - American currency (50, 100, 20) on a wooden table next to pills and spilling bottle of pharmaceuticals

Returns to Public Investment in Drug Discovery: Some Fundamental Questions

By Fred Ledley, Ekaterina Cleary, and Matthew Jackson [1]

“I am disposed to ask: “Does teaching consist in putting questions?” Indeed, the secret of your system has just this instant dawned upon me.”
Socrates in Oeconomicus (Economics) by Xenophon

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed longstanding debates about the role of the public and private sectors in drug discovery and development from questions of optimal policy to questions of life and death. On one hand, it has dramatically demonstrated the public’s dependence on biopharmaceutical companies for the discovery, development, manufacture, and distribution of drugs and vaccines that may quell the pandemic. On the other hand, the billions of dollars of public funding demanded by the private sector to pursue these products vividly illustrates the industry’s reliance on public funding for the development of products that address the public’s most pressing needs.

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