In October, Beaver County officials filed a lawsuit against a dozen pharmaceutical companies, alleging they blatantly overprescribed painkillers and worsened the region’s opioid crisis. According to the complaint, opioid prescriptions quadrupled, starting in the early 2000s, and as a result, pharmaceutical companies made billions in profits. Beaver County officials say the opioid epidemic is costing them millions in emergency services, while also taking hundreds of lives. In 2016, Beaver County lost 102 people to overdoses and Allegheny County had a record 650 overdose deaths.
The lawsuit came on the heels of an investigation from The Washington Post and 60 Minutes outlining the influence “Big Pharma” has had on the federal government. Robert Peirce, the attorney representing Beaver County, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in October, “They can buy the feds, maybe, but they can’t buy the local communities.”
City Paper sought to determine just how much in campaign contributions these pharmaceutical companies have donated to area politicians. It turns out that Western Pennsylvania politicians have received hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies.
Using the National Institute on Money in State Politics campaign-finance-tracking website, followthemoney.org, CP counted all post-2000 donations from the following companies named in the Beaver County lawsuit: Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. It should also be noted that former U.S. representatives Jason Altmire (D-McCandless) and Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) received tens of thousands of dollars in donations, but weren’t included since they no longer hold elected office.
1. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) — $55,500
Toomey received the most campaign donations from the companies of any politician representing Western Pennsylvania. Toomey’s commitment to tackling the opioid crisis was called into question in June, when he worked on the Senate Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Toomey’s proposal only allocated $2 billion a year to combat the opioid epidemic, even as experts said the crisis would likely cost $19 billion a year.