A look at the impact of prescription drugs in Illinois

 
 
Updated 9/18/2016 12:14 AM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois candidates for state and federal office have received nearly $3 million in contributions from the makers of prescription painkillers since 2006, according to a joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity that looked at industry efforts nationally to help fight limits on their drugs.

The investigation found that the drug companies' spending during the past decade was eight times that of the gun lobby, totaling more than $880 million nationwide. With the money, the companies employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists at state capitols and made campaign contributions to 7,100 candidates for state and federal office.

 

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have soared since 2000, claiming the lives of 165,000 people in the U.S. In recent years, Illinois has taken steps to try to address the problem. Here's a look at the money and resources that have been spent on Illinois, where the state ranks and what lawmakers have done to try to curb opioid abuse:

LOBBYISTS:

Since 2006, Illinois has had an average of 63 registered lobbyists each year employed by members of the Pain Care Forum, a loose coalition of drugmakers and dozens of nonprofit groups supported by industry funding. Illinois ranked 25th among states for the PFC member lobbyists it had in proportion to its overall number of lobbyists.

CONTRIBUTIONS:

Candidates for the Legislature, Congress, other state and federal offices and political parties in Illinois have received at least $2.8 million in contributions from PFC members since 2006. In proportion to overall contributions in the state, Illinois ranks 17th.

PRESCRIPTIONS:

There were slightly more than 8 million opioid prescriptions issued in Illinois in 2015, putting its per capita rate that year at 0.62. Nationally the per capita rate was 0.71 in 2015.

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DEATHS:

There were 12,903 deaths from overdoses in Illinois from 2006 through 2014. The state's death rate per 100,000 in 2014 was 13.2, which was 31st highest among the 50 states. 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.

STATE ACTION

At the beginning of 2012, a state law took effect that limited painkiller prescriptions to a 30-day supply. Before the law, there was no limit.

In 2015, lawmakers approved legislation that will automatically register physicians with the state's Prescription Monitoring Program, which collects information to be shared among doctors and pharmacies to prevent patients from stockpiling drugs. The automatic registration will begin next year. Until now, it has been voluntary for doctors to register, said Dr. Tom Anderson, president of the Illinois Medical Society.

"The idea of people being able to travel to different pharmacies is getting harder and harder," Anderson said.

Last year, a measure introduced in Illinois would have required insurance coverage of purportedly less addictive types of opioids - a move that would benefit pharmaceutical companies.

The Illinois bill, which never received a vote, contained nearly identical language as measures introduced in 18 other states. Lawmakers in at least five of the states said drug company lobbyists provided or helped with the language for the legislation.

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