The Pusher Man
You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die
God damn, the pusher
God damn, I say the pusher
I said God damn
God damn the pusher man
By Hoyt Axton
Performed by Steppenwolf
In 2017, Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette-Mail won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his coverage of the opioid crisis in small-town West Virginia, according to Eyre’s home newspaper. The Pulitzer judges said Eyre won the prize “for courageous reporting, performed in the face of powerful opposition, to expose the flood of opioids flowing into depressed West Virginia counties with the highest overdose death rates in the country.”
Eyre’s investigation found that, over six years, drug wholesalers dumped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills onto the state while 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers. Over five years, the nation's largest drug wholesalers flooded notorious “pill mill” pharmacies in West Virginia's smallest towns and poorest counties with hundreds of thousands of painkillers, according to court records the companies had sought to keep secret for more than a year.
Here are the harsh facts from the National Center for Health Statistics:
In 2016, almost 64,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2016 (more than died in the Vietnam War), an average of 175 people a day.
In 2016, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that 11.5 million Americans “misused” pain medication. (Note that such figures are still on the rise.)
Since 2001, this crisis of addiction has already cost the country an estimated $1 trillion and might, in the next three years alone, cost more than half that much again. (thanks, TomDispatch).
For this Expresso, we are catching up on the national fight against the Pusher Man -- the giant Pharm manufacturers and distributors whose poisonous pills have fostered a plague on the land. The featured report from Calvert, Stemming the Opioid Crisis with Responsible Investing, examines the drastic increase of this man-made epidemic and how responsible investors can help impact pharma company responses. For other in-depth coverage of the epidemic, here are a few additional pieces we found particularly intriguing: