After 20 years of patented opioid painkillers flooding America thanks to the pharmaceutical industry and careless doctors, the United States finds itself in a raging opioid epidemic.
The numbers are telling: 80 percent of the global opioid supply is consumed in the U.S., representing about 300 million prescriptions in 2015 alone or "enough drugs to give every single American 64 Percocets or Vicodin."
As pain pill prescriptions have surged, overdose deaths from these legal drugs now total about 15,000 every year. When people can't afford patented pills anymore, they turn to heroin, which killed almost 13,000 people in 2015—a 23 percent increase in one year.
Meanwhile, Big Pharma rakes in $24 billion a year from prescription opioids. Fully aware of the problem they helped create, companies like Purdue Pharma—perhaps the most notorious pill pusher with its infamous OxyContin—are now selling patented "abuse-deterrent" painkillers. These are bringing billions more in profits to pharma companies, "even though there's little proof they reduce rates of overdoses or deaths."
Another questionable avenue for tackling the opioid problem is the development of an "addiction vaccine." The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency, is using taxpayer dollars to fund efforts for anti-drug vaccines, as described on their webpage.
"A successful anti-drug vaccine will induce an immune response that blocks the target drug from entering the brain.
A patient who has been vaccinated will obtain no reward or relief of craving from taking the target drug, and so will have reduced motivation to continue further in relapse."
NIDA funded experiments at the Scripps Research Institute have resulted in a successful anti-heroin vaccine used on primates. In a July 3 press release, study author Kim Janda noted the research "validates our previous rodent data and positions our vaccine in a favorable light for anticipated clinical evaluation."