Brief #43—Health

Policy Summary
This week, the Senate is poised to vote on the Opioid Crisis Response Act (OCRA)  of 2018. This bill would increase access to addiction treatment centers, increase opportunities for research on non opioid painkillers, and make it harder to get fentanyl and other synthetic drugs across borders. It would do this with 7.9 billion dollars of federal funding, although this is coming from similar already allocated funds and isn’t much of an increase in spending on this issue. There is a crisis of epidemic proportions occurring in the U.S. with regards to opioid related deaths and lives spiraling out of control. Almost 80% of heroin users first became addicted through prescription painkillers and yet, the OCRA does little to attempt to regulate the pharmaceutical industries and doctors that over prescribe opioids. Little funding, and a relatively lax bill does not help curb a crisis that took almost 43,000 lives last year alone.


Policy Analysis

OCRA doesn’t seem to attack the overarching causes for the opioid crisis in the U.S.: the pharmaceutical industry’s involvement in proliferating the prescription of opioid painkillers. This rate has nearly tripled in the past twenty years, and due to consistent strong lobbying from “Big Pharma,” there has been little attempts by way of legislation to curb their influence. Congress is willing to tamp down on border crossings of illicit drugs but has not attempted to further legislate on the proliferation of  prescriptions and continues to be influenced by campaign funds from PACs supporting Big Pharma. A solid 39% of users say they get drugs from friends and family with opioid prescriptions versus a cartel or the Chinese dark web. This bill is simply not bold enough to legislate on issues that could seriously impede the accessibility of opioids. While OCRA will aid in accessibility to treatment resources and impede access to foreign opioids, it avoids attacking the real cause, which is incidentally funding a lot of campaigns in the upcoming midterm election cycle.


Resistance Resources

  • To help aid your community that has most likely been affected by the opioid crisis, please consider taking action today in steps outlined by the Partnership for Drug Free Kids.
  • As always, contact your state’s elected officials and voice your concerns or support. Regularly check social media to see how you can get involved in local protests and rallies.
  • Contact
    This brief was compiled by Sophia Adams. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact
  • Keywords: opioid crisis act 2018, big pharma, fentanyl, illicit drug trafficking, big pharma lobbying
  • Photo credit: Driving forces

Editorial Cartoon by Walt Handelsman, The Advocate, 2017. Image source theadvocate and @Walt_Handelsman.

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