JACKSON, Miss. — Companies that make prescription painkillers and their allies have contributed more than $366,000 to Mississippi candidates and hired an average of 18 lobbyists yearly in the state since 2006 to push their policies.

The spending comes as Mississippi’s use of opioids reached the fifth-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 nationwide 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.

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have soared nationwide since 2000, although they have decreased slightly in Mississippi.

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 Mississippi and where the state ranks:

LOBBYISTS:

Since 2006, Mississippi has had an average of 18 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. Mississippi ranked 16th among states for the Pain Care Forum member lobbyists it had in proportion to its overall number of lobbyists.

CONTRIBUTIONS:

State candidates and parties in Mississippi have received at least $366,375 in contributions from Pain Care Forum members since 2006. Mississippi ranks 22nd in proportion to overall contributions in the state.

PRESCRIPTIONS:

Mississippi had more than 3.2 million opioid prescriptions in 2015. That puts its rate that year at 1.07 prescriptions per capita, the fifth-highest rate in the country. Nationally, the per capita rate was 0.71 in 2015.

DEATHS:

There were 2,877 deaths from overdoses in Mississippi from 2006 through 2014. The state’s death rate per 100,000 in 2014 was 11.2. The number of overdose deaths decreased 1 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.

VIAThe Associated Press
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