CONCORD, N.H. — Though New Hampshire’s Legislature has made tackling the state’s opioid abuse crisis a priority, lawmakers also get a share of their campaign cash from prescription drug companies.
A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that drug companies and allied advocates spent more than $880 million on lobbying and political contributions at the state and federal level over the past decade. By comparison, a handful of groups advocating for opioid limits spent $4 million. The money covered a range of political activities important to the drug industry, including legislation and regulations related to opioids.
The companies and allied groups also have an army of lobbyists averaging 1,350 per year, covering all 50 state capitals.
Key findings about political spending and activity by the painkiller industry and opioid use in New Hampshire:
Pharmaceutical companies and associated organizations made more than 500 donations totally nearly $665,000 to New Hampshire’s state and federal candidates between 2006 and 2015. Only one group advocating stricter opioid laws and regulations made a donation to a New Hampshire candidate during that time.
At the state level, a coalition of companies and advocacy groups that meets regularly to discuss opioid-related issues contributed $231,110 to state candidates and parties in New Hampshire between 2006 and 2015. Most other states received significantly more money from members of the Pain Care Forum, but the amount sent to New Hampshire made up a large share of the total contributions received in the state. By that measure, New Hampshire ranked ninth among the states.
New Hampshire has had an average of 20 registered lobbyists employed by members of the Pain Care Forum each year since 2006. It ranks second among states for the PFC member lobbyists it’s had in proportion to the overall number of lobbyists in the state.
Drug overdose deaths in New Hampshire increased 124 percent between 2006 and 2014, with a total of 1,709 deaths during that period. The percentage increase was higher in only two other states — North Dakota and Delaware.
New Hampshire also had the nation’s third highest rate of drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2014, behind only West Virginia and New Mexico. Though the drug death data isn’t limited to opioids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that prescription opioids and heroin account for the majority of drug deaths.
New Hampshire had 886,243 prescriptions for opioids in 2015, or a per capita rate of .67. The national per capita rate was .71. The number of prescriptions has dropped by nearly 9 percent since 2013, when 970,834 prescriptions were written.
New Hampshire lawmakers created a task force last year to craft opioid-related legislation after Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan called them back into a special session to address the crisis.
During the 2016 legislative year, lawmakers passed and Hassan signed bills to fund more drug courts, increase penalties for dealers of the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl and aid police departments in stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the state from Massachusetts. The Legislature also increased funding for treatment and recovery programs, improved the prescription drug monitoring program and tightened the rules for prescribing painkillers.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report.