It's not Big Pharma.
For the better half of a decade, the nation has been in the grips of an opioid crisis; the epidemic, fueled by highly addictive prescription painkillers and increasingly cheap, potent heroin, claimed more than 33,000 lives in 2015. It’s been estimated that another 2.5 million Americans struggle with an opioid addiction.
There’s no single actor to blame for the tragedy; the crisis even had seemingly benevolent origins—at the outset, some members of the medical community, inspired by the hospice movement, simply wanted to better treat patients’ pain. There a number of parties that at least share in responsibility for what has happened since, from the pharmaceutical companies that pushed the highly addictive pills, to the physicians who overprescribed them, to the pharmacies that dispensed too many.
In “McKesson is Feeling the Pain,” a feature in the June 15 issue of the magazine, Fortune explored the role giant drug distributors like McKesson (No. 5 on this year’s Fortune 500) have played in the epidemic. For that story, Fortune also partnered with SurveyMonkey to poll the public on their views of the wide-reaching crisis. Of the sample of 3,645 adult Americans surveyed in May 2017, 29% said the people hooked on opioids were most responsible for the epidemic. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies also rated highly—with 19% and 15% of votes—as the most deserving of blame.
The epidemic was something the majority of respondents were paying attention to. (Just 13% said they were following “not at all closely.”) Of the sample, 47% identified opioid abuse as either an “extremely big” or a “very big problem” in their communities. The majority said that it was at least “somewhat easy” to get prescription painkillers that weren’t prescribed to them. Almost 40% knew someone who suffered from an opioid addiction; 23% knew someone who had overdosed on the drugs.
Other results, including those from the 732 respondents had recently taken prescription opioids, above.