LaDuke: Pharma companies that brought the COVID vaccine also caused the opioid crisis – InForum

I have a love-hate relationship with the healthcare industry. I am grateful for my medical care, but truly appalled at the exponential growth in the industry. It looks like pretty much every old box building is being turned into a clinic, for diabetes, COVID or whatever. It is not an indicator of well-being.

Health care is a growing business, that’s for sure. And, it turns out that some of those providing the “help” are behaving criminally in other areas.

Let me explain: the Ojibwe word for hospital is Aakoziiwigamig, or sick house — nothing is said about healing. We don’t want any more sick homes; we want to be well. And, of course, when a horse lands on you, you want to see a doctor.

The growth of the health care industry is something that gives us security in rural areas, but it’s also an indicator of rising rates of cancer, opioids, violence.

Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson joined other pharmaceutical companies in a $590 million interim settlement in the opioid disaster that has devastated this country,

according to a New York Times article

. This is the settlement reserved for Indigenous Nations who have suffered from addiction and disproportionately high rates of opioids peddled by Johnson & Johnson and a few others. The Minnesota settlement is approximately $300 million. People are still dying every month here on the reserve.

Since 1999, there have been more than 760,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States,

according to the Ministry of Health and Social Services

. In 2019 alone, 70,630 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses. Native Americans have suffered a disproportionate number of opioid-related overdose deaths, by many metrics. In 2016, for example, the Oglala Lakota had an opioid-related death rate of 21 people per 100,000, more than double the state average, according to the Times article.

In recent years, companies have faced opioid lawsuits in several states, including Minnesota, and a federal class action lawsuit by tribal nations. In 2019, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson, our vaccine supplier, to pay $572 million for contributing to the deaths of more than 6,000 people in the state since 2000.

according to a Fierce Pharma report

. A court later reduced the figure to $465 million.

Now, to be clear, I was looking forward to getting vaccinated. I have had the Pfizer on all three injections and so far have been in fairly good health. I very much appreciate the frontline workers in the health care industry. I just want to point out that it’s ironic that Johnson & Johnson and others responsible for the opioid crisis are seen as saviors in vaccines.

Finally, I think preventative health is the answer. It’s time to grow more organic food, get out of the house and away from the TV, or we’ll all look like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Let’s try to keep some of the carcinogens from industrial agriculture out of our food, water and air. All this is a beginning of well-being, this is what we want.

I would like to stay out of the Aakoziiwigamig as long as possible and stay healthy. And, I will say again, I hate the profit motives of the health care industry, but I remain grateful to the doctors and nurses who have saved so many lives.

Winona LaDuke is Executive Director, Honor the Earth, and an Ojibwe writer and economist on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation. She is also the owner of Winona’s Hemp and a regular contributor to the Forum News Service.

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