Published at 5:58 p.m., Monday, April 23, 2018
Photo: AFP / AFP / Getty Images
The economic cost of the opiate crisis in Washington state in 2016 amounted to more than $ 9 billion in combined deaths , spending on medical care, treatment for addictions, criminal justice and lost productivity, according to a report published Monday by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The report found that the greatest economic impact of the crisis are deaths related to opiates.
Deaths from the epidemic in Washington ranged from 640 to 718 deaths annually during the decade between 2006 and 2016, the last year for which complete figures are available.
Between 425 and 583 annual deaths are due to an overdose of prescription drugs, a figure much higher than the heroin overdose deaths. However, heroin deaths have increased, and most heroin users reported being "addicted" to painkillers.
"This new analysis shows how much our communities are losing economically as they work to address the many challenges of the opiate epidemic," Murray said in a statement.
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The state of Washington sued the manufacturer of Oxycontin Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of feeding the opioid epidemic. The lawsuit alleges misleading marketing, convincing doctors and the public that drugs are harmless and offer a low-risk way to treat pain.
Purdue has "strongly denied" the accusation.
The city of Seattle has filed a separate lawsuit against Purdue, and also against Teva Pharmaceutical, Janssen Pharmaceutical, Endo Pharmaceutical and Allergan.
An estimated 59,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, compared to 52,000 from the previous year. An estimated 33,000 deaths from overdoses in 2015 – more than 20,000 from prescription deaths, nearly 13,000 from heroin overdoses – came from opiates.
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The report published by Murray was prepared by minority staff on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Murray is the graduate of the Democratic panel.
The report adapts the methodology employed by a November 2017 report of the Council of Economic Advisers, which found that previous analyzes of opioid costs significantly underestimate the price of the epidemic.
The HELP committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday on the Opioid Crisis Response Act proposal, a bipartisan proposal sponsored by Murray and committee chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee.
You can contact SeattlePI.com writer Joel Connelly at 206-448-8160 or email@example.com