BATON ROUGE, La. — Companies that make prescription painkillers and their allies have contributed at least $1 million to Louisiana candidates and hired an average of 40 lobbyists annually in the state since 2006 to push their policies.
The spending comes as Louisiana’s use of opioids reached the sixth-highest in the country last year.
A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found the organizations spent $880 million and hired an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in state capitals around the country from 2006 through 2015.
By comparison, groups seeking limits on opioid prescribing spent about $4 million.
Drugmakers and allied groups contributed to a total of 7,100 candidates for state-level office, according to the investigation, and hired more than 115 federal lobbying organizations each year during that 10-year period. The groups have an array of political interests that include opioid advocacy.
Meanwhile, overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have soared since 2000.
Reporters analyzed campaign finance and lobbying data from 2006 through 2015. Here’s a look at how much money and resources have been spent in Louisiana and where the state ranks:
Since 2006, Louisiana has had an average of 40 registered lobbyists each year employed by members of the Pain Care Forum, a coalition of companies and advocacy groups that meets to discuss opioid-related issues. Louisiana ranked fourth among states for the Pain Care Forum member lobbyists it had in proportion to its overall number of lobbyists, though the number has dropped from a high of 57 in 2011 to 32 by 2015.
State candidates and parties in Louisiana have received at least $1 million in contributions from Pain Care Forum members since 2006. Louisiana ranks 14th in proportion to overall contributions in the state.
Louisiana had more than 4.8 million opioid prescriptions in 2015. That puts its rate that year at 1.03 prescriptions per capita, the sixth-highest rate in the country. Nationally, the per capita rate was 0.71 in 2015.
There were 6,088 deaths from overdoses in Louisiana from 2006 through 2014. The state’s death rate per 100,000 in 2014 was 16.7.
The number of overdose deaths increased 10 percent from 2006 to 2014. The overdose deaths aren’t limited to opioids, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that prescription opioids and heroin account for the majority of drug deaths.