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Big Pharma Is Fighting Legalized Marijuana Any Way It Can

Wayne Duggan

The marijuana legalization movement has a lot riding on the November elections, as five different states (Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and California) are voting to lift bans on recreational marijuana use. As the election approaches, marijuana is not only facing political and social resistance, it’s also fighting a wave of opposition from big pharmaceutical companies as well.

The Guardian reports that Insys Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: INSY) has been the largest monetary contributor to Arizona’s anti-legalization campaign. Insys is protesting legalization on the grounds of child safety, yet its synthetic prescription opioid fentanyl can be 100 times more potent than morphine.

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Studies have shown that the rate of emergency room cases of marijuana use in children under age 10 in the state of Colorado have risen from 1.2 per 100,000 kids to 2.3 per 100,000 kids since recreational marijuana became legalized. At the same time, the number of emergency room cases of accidental prescription painkiller ingestion in children is up more than 225 percent to 318 cases per 100,000 kids since 2004.

Insys isn’t the own company fighting marijuana legalization to seemingly preserve its painkiller market share.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and Vicodin producer Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) are two of the largest donors to the Anti-Drug Coalition of America. These companies are fighting to overcome statistics from the American Medical Association that show opiate overdoses have declined by 25 percent in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

In addition to keeping pain patients off of potentially addictive opioids, marijuana also gives patients a cheaper alternative to expensive prescription drugs. While brand-name drug prices are up 127 percent since 2008, states with legalized medical marijuana have saved more than $165 million in prescription Medicare costs annually.

As Election Day approaches, voters will continue to be bombarded by anti-legalization advertisements in all states that have marijuana propositions on the ballot. Big pharmaceutical companies are pulling out all the stops to maintain their prescription pain killer market share.

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