With the opioid crisis getting worse by the day, the time to take a stand and advocate change and action is necessary. John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, dedicated an episode on April 16, 2019 to raise awareness and call for action on the opioid epidemic. This episode is titled “Opioids II” as this is his second episode dedicated to the topic. The first episode he had featuring the discussion was back in 2016. Since the crisis has not improved, with 47,000 deaths from painkiller overdoses reported in 2017, and multiple court cases on the rise, Oliver decided to revisit the topic. In the episode he discusses two of the largest distributors of opioids, McKesson Corp. and Purdue.
A poignant point that Times cites in an article on the episode is that Oliver’s arguments that “massive fines levied against the drug companies for failing to monitor opioids properly…have become the ‘costs of business.’” This is concerning and something that—quite honestly—the public should be angry about. Big pharmaceutical companies are making profit off an epidemic. Instead of seeing the lives being destroyed, they only continue to see the massive gains that they received. Big corporations like McKesson Corp. believe that simply paying fines that, in reality, do little to effect profit redeem them and absolve any responsibility. If McKesson Corp. really cared about the crisis or human lives lost, distribution of opioids would be controlled more effectively—and a legitimate apology perhaps could be made. As Oliver pointed out in his segment, the company never took actual ownership or accountability, it just threw money into fines to try and cover its name.
The other company Oliver discusses in the video is Purdue, run by the Sackler Family. The Sackler family fights vehemently to keep their name off the opioid crisis, despite the fact that the company’s distribution of OxyContin is arguably one of the major causes of the crisis.
Here is the link to the satirical website The Sackler Gallery.
Purdue’s and the Sackler Family’s insistence to destroy and hide documentation on involvement is now being fought against by Oliver with these wonderful clips. Oliver’s episode was a brilliant use of his platform, and I hope will be a step forward in helping resolve the epidemic. Trying to hold big corporations accountable for reckless business is where more people need to focus their concern. AT the end of the day, Oliver is still one talk show host, one celebrity. This is a remarkable step forward, but protests by more people are needed with the intend to hold these companies responsible. It is time to take the blame off of the addicts, because these companies are actively exploiting the highly addictive nature of their products in order to keep addicts…addicts.