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OTHER VIEW
Other View: Opioid firms must clean up their mess

Felicia Detty loved with all her heart. Growing up in southern Ohio in the rural village of Frankfort, she earned the nickname “Bug” because she gave the best hugs. Her dad was her best friend, and her daughter, Averie, was the love of her life.

At 18, when Felicia visited the emergency room for severe tooth pain, she hadn’t planned on getting addicted to prescription pain pills or later heroin. As her mother, Christina, put it: “She had no intention of growing up saying, ‘I want to be an addict. I want to suffer from substance-use disorder.’ “

In September 2015, Felicia died of a heroin overdose.

Opioid addiction has become all too familiar in my home state of Ohio. The man-made public health-care disaster has spread to every county in the state. This is why, as state attorney general, I have filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of brand-name and generic opioids.

We believe evidence will show that they flooded the market with prescription opioids, such as OxyContin and Percocet, and grossly misleading information about the risks and benefits of these drugs. And as a result, we believe countless Ohioans and other Americans have become hooked on opioid pain medications, all too often leading to the use of cheaper alternatives such as heroin and synthetic opioids. Almost 80 percent of heroin users start with prescription opioids.

Historically, opioid pain medications were considered too addictive and debilitating for anything but short-term acute pain and end-of-life care. But as we lay out in our legal complaint, starting in the late 1990s, manufacturers designed sophisticated marketing campaigns to target primary-care doctors—the doctors a typical Ohioan would visit—to convince them that opioids could and should be used for chronic pain.

These companies changed the prescribing culture, convincing doctors that opioids were not very addictive, that addiction was easy to overcome and that addiction could actually be treated by taking more opioids. In 2014 alone, pharmaceutical companies spent $168 million to dispatch sales reps to win over these doctors with smooth pitches, slick slide decks and glossy brochures that downplayed the risks and highlighted the benefits of their branded drugs. As Endo Pharmaceuticals openly advertised, “People who take opioids as prescribed usually do not become addicted.”

They hired doctors to serve as “key opinion leaders” on advisory boards and to be part of speaker bureaus. They funded professional societies and patient advocacy groups, which then heralded the benefits of these drugs. In 2011, they spent $14 million on ads just in medical journals.

And now, opioids are one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs, raking in revenue of about $11 billion in 2014 and projected to grow to $17.7 billion by 2021. In 2012, Ohio patients received 793 million pills—enough to supply every man, woman and child in the state with 68 pills each. By 2016, roughly 20 percent of Ohio’s population were prescribed opioids.

We can no longer ignore the tragic consequences of addiction to these drugs. By 2015, opioids caused 82 percent of all overdose deaths in Ohio. But it’s not just in my state. Each day, 3,600 Americans start misusing an opioid pain medication for the first time.

The opioid epidemic is ripping apart families and tearing at the fabric of our communities. More than 4,000 Ohioans died last year from accidental drug overdoses—a 36 percent increase over 2015. Our jails have become detox centers. The foster care system is overflowing. More than half of Ohio children and 70 percent of infants placed in the foster system had parents who abused drugs. County coroners are struggling to keep up with the mounting bodies. And one morgue has resorted to borrowing a 20-foot mass-casualty cold-storage trailer to make room for the corpses.

It is just and right that people who played a significant role in creating this mess should help clean it up. As Felicia Detty’s mother pondered the role these pharmaceutical companies played in her daughter’s death, she said: “They had the ability to just consume all of our communities. . . . But are they standing there when you kissed your child in a casket?”

I applaud President Trump in acknowledging the opioid crisis as a national emergency. Additional resources from the federal government will help hard-hit states such as Ohio.

In the meantime, it’s time for these pharmaceutical Goliaths to take responsibility for their actions and stop trying to deceive Ohio and America. What they’ve done is morally and legally wrong.


Mailbag
Letters of Thanks

Thanks for supporting Art in the Park

On behalf of the Magic Valley Arts Council, I would like to thank the following community members for supporting the 58th annual Art in the Park on July 28 and 29 at the Twin Falls City Park.

This event featured the creative works of more than 30 artists, activities, information booths, food booths and music. Major support was provided by the Art Guild of the Magic Valley. Additional contributors: Art & Bonnie Hoag, Rebecca Sandison, Totally Twisted Balloon Animals, Joe Shaw, Twin Falls Lions Club, Robin Dober, Jill Skeem, Mike Crane, Jim Dutt, Magic Valley Distributing, Pegan Cook, Rosie Martinez Eckert, Chandra Holloway, Kim Syth, The Barking Owls, Em and the Guys (Emilee Gomske, Michael Frew, Chris Cawthraw and Peter Bierma), Twin Falls Public Library—Humans of the Magic Valley, Idaho Central Credit Union, Betty B’s and Diane’s Delights, Garden To Go, Mikey’s Kettle Corn, Soran’s Catering, Courtney Solomon, Suzanne Hawkins, and all the artists whose works were valued.

Join us again July 27-28, 2018!

Melissa Crane,

Marketing and sales director

Magic Valley Arts Council

Thank you for the grant

I would like to extend my gratitude toward the individuals who serve on the Advisory Board for the Seagraves Foundation. The Oregon Trail Elementary school in the Twin Falls School District received a $6,000 grant to purchase swings for students who have disabilities. I know many students in our program will benefit from this recreational opportunity. Thank you for this grant.

Kara Barnes,

ERC para educator

Oregon Trail Elementary

Jazz on the

Canyon a success

On behalf of the Jazz on the Canyon Committee, I would like to thank the following for their support of this year’s successful Jazz on the Canyon June 28 and 29 at the Twin Falls Center for the Arts. All proceeds benefiting music education for CSI Jazz Camp, Magic Valley Arts Council and the Twin Falls School District Education Foundation.

Major support was provided by Clif Bar and Co., with additional support by Middlekauff Auto Group, Lytle Signs, Elevation 486, Edward Jones Investments, Watkins Distributing, Clear Springs Food, Falls Brand Independent Meat Co, Holesinky Vineyard and Winery, KMVT, Sun Valley Jazz and Music Festival, Rudy’s A Cook’s Paradise, Melissa Pease, Mike McBride, Chris Scholes, Thad Scholes, Linda Watkins, Bill Brulotte, Kathy MacMillan, Bob and Linda Sojka, Scott Farkas, Malan Erke, Shari Cowger, Chandra Holloway, Judi Baxter, Eric Smallwood, Mike and Melissa Crane.

Carolyn White,

Jazz on the Canyon committee member

Thanks for folk festival support

On behalf of the Magic Valley Folk Festival, I would like to thank the Mini-Cassia area for supporting this year’s festival. We had a wonderful experience with dancers and musicians from Austria, Belarus, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Switzerland. They danced and shared their cultures with us and we learned so much from them.

To everyone who provided housing, transportation and food for these amazing performers, I express my sincere gratitude. We wouldn’t have a festival without your willingness to open your homes and hearts to our international guests.

Another thank you goes out to our generous sponsors who made this event possible in our community. Without their gracious donations this year as well as in previous years, we would have been unable to enrich our community with this event each summer for the past 14 years.

And finally, I would like to thank everyone who served on our committee, worked as a Team Guide, or volunteered to help us in any way. It takes hours of service to produce a world class event like this each year and we couldn’t do it without the support of the people in our communities.

We look forward to another wonderful festival next year!

Krista Gammon

2017 Festival Chairperson


Editorial
OUR VIEW
Our View: Cheers and Jeers

Cheer

Twenty-five law enforcement officers helped 20 families with back-to-school shopping this week in the annual Shop with a Cop event in Twin Falls.

The Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Employee Association leads the event, which pairs deputies with students who could use a little help getting their pencils, scissors, glue sticks and notebooks.

“We want to make sure they get all the school supplies they need, so when they go back to school they don’t feel out of place,” said Scott Bishop, a sergeant in the sheriff’s department.

Helping students get off to the right start in a new school year is a big deal.

The event is also a great reminder that being a deputy involves a lot more than chasing bad guys.

Kudos, too, to Sgt. Bishop’s daughter, Alyssa, a senior at Zavier Charter School, who helped organize the event as part of her senior project.

Jeer

We’re lucky to live in great communities, and that sometimes makes it difficult to find something worth jeering out of a week’s worth of news.

Not this time.

On Wednesday, reporter Mychel Matthews chronicled a bizarre string of animal shootings near Curry. One cattleman lost his prized bull and a heifer. Neighbors found their favorite llamas gunned down.

Look, if you get your kicks from shooting animals, we have hunting seasons for that. There’s nothing sporting about shooting livestock.

Police have few leads and said the cases would be hard to solve unless they catch the shooter in the act.

Cheer

The third and final new Twin Falls school approved by voters through a $74 million bond in 2014 is finally ready to open.

On Thursday, students, parents and community members got the first look at South Hills Middle School, the district’s first new middle school in 38 years. The last was O’Leary, built in 1979.

The school has a similar look to the other two new schools, Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementaries, which opened last year. All three feature the latest in school building designs, which aim to provide the best learning environments for the next generations of Twin Falls leaders.

Again, we applaud the voters who supported these new schools. Their vision for growth and commitment that students here study in top-notch schools can’t be overstated.