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Most Americans want drug companies held accountable for the opioid epidemic

A majority of respondents blamed these companies for making the crisis worse.

Families protest in January in front of lawyers for the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which has been sued by the Massachusetts attorney general.
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

An overwhelming majority of Americans want pharmaceutical companies to be held accountable for the opioid epidemic, according to a new NPR and Ipsos poll.

A slight majority, 56 percent, said companies should be held responsible for making the opioid crisis worse. In the past, these businesses have been accused of blatantly ignoring the abuse and illegal distributions of their drugs. An overwhelming majority of respondents also supported drug producers doing more to help fight the epidemic: 73 percent said they wanted these drug companies to produce funds to help opioid addiction treatment, and 72 percent said they should distribute naloxone kits, which would help revive those who have overdosed.

A majority of respondents were even willing to have the government intervene to help solve the epidemic: 71 percent said they wanted to restrict opioid redistribution, while 66 percent said they’d support a more widespread distribution of naloxone in hope that it would prevent overdose deaths.

The poll, conducted this month, comes as more than 1,600 civil lawsuits have been filed against drug companies. The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that, for the first time in history, it was charging executives of a major drug distributor with conspiring to distribute drugs and defrauding the federal government — charges that have long been associated with cartel bosses, not the pharmaceutical industry.

These punitive measures toward drug companies also align with Trump’s promises to hold distributors more accountable. During an annual drug abuse conference on Wednesday, Trump pledged to the crowd that his administration would use all its resources to solve the epidemic.

“We will not solve this epidemic overnight but we will stop,” he said. “There’s just nothing going to stop us, no matter how you cut it.”

Yet experts say that his administration could do more to address the crisis by increasing spending. Although Congress approved a bill to add $3 billion a year to address the epidemic, experts say that simply isn’t enough because of the lack of access to treatment across the nation.

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