In a recent speech, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor remarked on the similarities between today’s opioid epidemic and the 1950’s polio epidemic in the U.S. that killed thousands and crippled tens of thousands. Yes, the catastrophic impact – especially on young people – is comparable. However, similarities end there. The polio epidemic was caused by a virus. Ohio’s current opioid epidemic is largely man-made, fueled by drug companies that have hugely profited by falsely and cynically marketing their opioid-based painkillers as safe and non-addictive to doctors and consumers.
Too many Ohio doctors also have been complicit by moonlighting as promoters of these opioids even as they received perks and so-called speaker’s fees from the drug-makers. Finally, Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered the anti-polio vaccine, did not patent his vaccine and never made a dime in royalties off his invention. This kind of selflessness is completely absent from today’s drug industry culture which now sells its life-saving medicines for whatever the market will bear – even if that means $475,000 for a cancer-fighting drug or a 530 percent increase in the cost of insulin.