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Preventing the prescription drug opioid crisis

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Alliance to Heal and the state of Wisconsin are working to decrease the over-prescription of opioids by big pharmaceutical companies.

Heavy painkillers are sometimes necessary if prescribed using proper guidelines. People may need medication that contains opioids temporarily during post-surgery or at end-of-life-care. Aside from that though, the opioid crisis is a pharmaceutical problem that is getting attention in La Crosse County.

“I can tell you that in 1992, pain was identified as the fifth vital sign and as part of this, a lot of the pharmaceutical companies did begin to pursue pushing a lot of the advertisement for relief for pain and then this was adopted by different medical and healthcare,” Alliance to Heal Coordinator Al Bliss said. “So that was probably the rise and the start of the opioid epidemic.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said that big pharma companies took advantage of people’s pain for profit.

“There was a concerted effort by those defendants to mislead the public, including medical providers, about the dangers of opioids,” Kaul said. “To downplay the risks that opioids present and to overstate the benefits of prescribing opioids. What we’ve seen over the last few decades is a huge increase in the volume of opioids that are prescribed.”

The state of Wisconsin took note and then took action.

“One of the things we’re involved with at the state level is multi-state investigations into opioid distributors and manufacturers,” Kaul said. “We filed suit against two Purdue Pharma entities and Richard Sackler a former president and co-chair of the board for Purdue Pharma.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Bliss said, locally, Alliance to Heal pushes for awareness for alternative methods of pain relief instead of opioid pain medication.

“There are also other alternatives that people can turn to and use,” Bliss said. “Tylenol, ibuprofen, physical therapy and acupuncture.”

Bliss said that there has been an approximate decrease in opioid prescriptions of 21 percent between 2017 and 2018.

“We still have a long way to go in getting that to a level that corresponds to the cases where it’s really needed and where people are really facing severe pain.”

There are 13 other local workforce organizations that work with Alliance to Heal to end the opioid epidemic.

Anyone struggling with addiction or knows someone who needs help can dial 2-1-1 to reach the Great Rivers help line for important information regarding drug addiction.

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Marcus Aarsvold

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