What are diseases of devastation? How did the current opioid epidemic begin and why has it grown so aggressively? What role do pharmaceutical companies and market-based medicine play in the proliferation of opioid prescriptions?
Of concern to registered nurses is that drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury and death in the United States — claiming 350,000 lives over the past two decades, with 47,000 deaths in 2017 alone. Twenty seven states have sued the pharmaceutical companies behind the opioid explosion. Yet, people who are in dire need of healthcare and treatment are targeted and penalized for opioid use. As opioids claim lives from nearly every gender, race, ethnicity, and community in the United States, disparate treatment and police responses to the epidemic expose deep-seated race-based fault lines in the U.S. health care and criminal justice systems. Opioid use disorder should be treated as a public health issue. By comparing the opioid crisis with similar diseases of devastation, nurses will analyze the opioid epidemic as a symptom of the outsized influence of Big Pharma in our broken, for-profit health care system.
The class will conclude with discussion of systemic interventions nurses can take to heal diseases of devastation and protect nurses’ professional judgment.
Upon completion of this class, participants will be able to:
- Describe diseases of devastation, specifically the opioid epidemic.
- Discuss the role of rising drug prices, “me too” drugs, and race in opioid treatment policy.
- Compare and contrast registered nurses’ role in advocating for robust public health measures with the pharmaceutical industry’s exploitation of public health.
- Explain how nurses’ advocacy for systemic public health interventions — like Medicare for All and others — can counter Big Pharma’s hold on our health care system.
All class times 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, additional hour available.