The opioid crisis is a human rights crisis.

The use and abuse of opioids in the United States is not something new. It started during and after the Civil War, when injured soldiers were given morphine for their pains, and consequently got addicted. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, heroin was legal and often used to treat coughs. It wasn’t until1924 that heroin was banned, but people still managed to get their hands on it. 

One of the reasons why the misuse of opioids painkillers started in the early 1990s was because of a single paragraph printed on the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 saying that painkillers opioids were not addictive. In the following years, pharmaceutical companies (such as Purdue Pharma) took this opportunity to market their new opioid painkillers. Doctors were encouraged by pain specialists to prescribe opioids to their patients in large amounts. 

In the early 2000s, the problem got worse when the medical practice standards changed. Doctors were only supposed to give opioids painkillers for patients that had gone through surgery or were close to dying, but with the change, they were required to prescribe opioid painkillers for chronic pain as well, which led to even more opioid prescriptions. 

Today, millions of Americans are addicted to opioids, like Vicodin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl (which is legal and prescribed by doctors) and heroin (which is illegal). The death toll is six times higher today than in 1999. 

The opioid crisis has turned into a public health issue, with more than 70,200 deaths just in 2017 alone, with an average of 130 people dying of opioid overdose daily. Americans represent about five percent of the world’s population, and they consume about eighty percent of the world’s opioids! This epidemic is affecting millions of Americans, and it’s time we all do something about it.

Purdue Pharma is being sued by almost every US state for downplaying the addiction risk of opioids and promoting its opioids painkillers to make millions of dollars. Big pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson, Allergan, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries among others are also being sued. 

It’s easy to see the opioid epidemic as a problem of others and not our own and turn our heads to the other side. We need to take into account the human dimension of the crisis and recognize that this is about all of us. By divesting our investments from big pharmaceutical companies, we’re telling them that we’re not okay with this epidemic and that we’re taking a stand for change. We’re taking a stand for human rights. 

Learn more about our Human Rights portfolios HERE.

Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/ng-interactive/2016/may/25/opioid-epidemic-overdose-deaths-map

https://www.businessinsider.com/porter-and-jick-letter-launched-the-opioid-epidemic-2016-5

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-opioids-litigation/u-s-state-lawsuits-against-purdue-pharma-over-opioid-epidemic-mount-idUSKCN1IG2WU

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