Overdose deaths rose in Indiana as drugmakers fought limits

Updated 9/18/2016 12:15 AM

INDIANAPOLIS -- The makers of prescription painkillers and their allied advocacy groups have given more than $600,000 to Indiana political campaigns since 2006, a small fraction of the roughly $63 million that was spent nationwide, according to a joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity.

The investigation looked at the 50-state strategy of contributions and lobbying by the Pain Care Forum - a coalition of drugmakers, trade groups and nonprofits supported by the industry - that helped fight limits on their drugs, such as OxyContin and Vicodin.


That spending happened as Indiana saw a 59 percent jump in overall overdose deaths between 2006 and 2014. That was the 14th largest increase of any state and among those that neighbor Indiana, it only trailed Ohio's 81 percent surge during that time.


Candidates and parties in Indiana have received at least $649,000 in contributions from PFC members since 2006. That put Indiana 26th among the states in overall contributions.


Slightly more than 5.8 million opioid prescriptions were issued in Indiana last year, or about 0.88 prescriptions per person, on average. That per capita rate was the 11th highest in the country, according to an analysis of prescription data from IMS Health. The national mark was 0.71.


Indiana had 8,392 overdose deaths from 2006 through 2014. The number of such deaths went up each year of that period, reaching 1,172 in 2014. The state's death rate per 100,000 in 2014 was 17.8, putting Indiana in a tie with Michigan for the country's 17th highest mark. The overdose deaths aren't limited to opioids, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that prescription opioids and heroin account for the majority of drug deaths.

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Ohio had the nation's 4th highest death rate in 2014 at 23.7, with Kentucky next highest at 24.4.


The most significant action in Indiana on opioid prescriptions came 2013, when state lawmakers directed the Indiana Medical Licensing Board to adopt new rules for such drugs. Those rules require doctors to see patients taking opioid medications at least every four months and to run their patients names though a state database at least once a year to check for possible abuse. Patients must sign a treatment agreement that includes requirements of not sharing medication with others and consenting to drug testing if the doctor suspects abuse.

The number of opioid prescriptions issued in the state declined by nearly 16 percent between 2013 and 2015, while the national total dropped by about 9.5 percent during that time.

A measure introduced during this year's Indiana legislative session would have required insurance coverage of purportedly less addictive types of opioids - a move that would benefit pharmaceutical companies. The bill, which never received a committee vote, contained nearly identical language to measures introduced in 18 other states.

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