Why would the pharmaceutical industry give Idaho politicians $207,000 between 2006 and 2015, including $44,000 to Governor Butch Otter? In fact, when it comes to having a large chunk of total statewide campaign donations coming from one of the largest promoters of painkillers, the Pain Control Forum, Idaho apparently ranks sixth in the nation.
While there are plenty of reasons for big pharma to like aging men, it begs the question for Idaho: Is our state a mecca for pharmaceutical production? Are we a center for regional medical care? What exactly is up with this not insignificant amount of cash flowing to the Gem State?

Corporations, like those that manufacture and sell drugs, are responsible to their shareholders, and their number one responsibility is to make more money. Let’s follow that money. Money leaves big pharma’s hands in one of two scenarios: 1) Charitable contributions with no expectation beyond the good work funded, or 2) They want something in return for their investment, something that helps grow profit.

We know the $207,000 was not “charitable.”

In a September 19, 2016, Spokesman Review article by Betsy Russell, Idaho Senator Pro Tem Brent Hill said, “I don’t remember being contacted by any representatives (of the [Pain Control Forum] group) as far as a specific bill at the state level.” Hill continued, “Nor can I think of any time that we’ve even discussed anything that might promote opioids in any way or make them more available.” Hill also said he just returned from a conference on opioid abuse, and intends on approaching organizations in Idaho about curbing opioid abuse.

We suspect Idaho’s legislature will quickly find out why this huge amount of campaign money has been “invested” in Idaho politicians as soon as they start talking opioid control in the Legislature. (Apparently the only Idaho legislation concerning opioid abuse made it easier to get the drug that temporarily reverses opioid overdoses.)

It’s less about what big pharma bought, but more about the potential campaign fundraising hole big pharma might create if Idaho Legislators decide to start acting in the public, rather than corporate, interest. So far their track record is pretty poor, considering 78,000 Idahoans are still uninsured while legislators who work part-time pay almost nothing for state-subsidized health insurance.

Do our legislators represent Idaho’s working families or the drug companies driven by profit? We’ll likely see during the upcoming legislative session, but our money is on big pharma. And that’s a real pain.