Over-Prescribed: TN Politicians Funded by Big Pharma

Which Tennessee politicians are being funded by big pharma? (WZTV)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Adults in the United States are prescribed an average of 11 medications each, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

One midstate woman juggled as many as four high-powered medications along with a duplicate prescription for Xanax, under doctor's orders, and wound up addicted.

A Fox 17 investigation finds.. Tennessee's politics could be playing a part with most of our lawmakers funded by big pharma.

The Centers for Disease Control and prevention reports the amount of prescription opioids sold in the US has almost quadrupled since 1999.

So has the number of deaths due to drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, according to the CDC.

Yet the CDC states there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.

But the problem goes beyond the exam room.

Fox 17 has combed through political campaign contributions listed on and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Doing the math from 2010, more than $894,000 has been paid by drug makers and lobbyists for big pharma to Tennessee candidates running for Congress.

These same sources show so far, in the last six years in Tennessee state elections, more than $1.3-million dollars from people and businesses in the pharmaceutical industry is funding political campaigns. is showing Pfizer, which makes oxycodone, as the top campaign contributor, spending more than $200,000 in Tennessee politics since 2010.

Fox 17 asks Pfizer the purpose of so much spending in our politics.

The company tells Fox 17 it chooses to support candidates "who deal with decisions important to our company".

Their statement lists two guiding principles for their political contributions: Preserve and further the incentives for innovation and protect and expand access to medicines and vaccines for patients.

Here in Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam is the top politician receiving campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Its data shows the industry has given more than $95,000 to the Governor's campaigns in the past six years.

When Fox 17 asked the Governor's office for an interview, we're told he's not available.

A statement from Governor Haslam's office says these contributions do not affect the Governor's stance on legislation to combat over-prescribing, pointing to his record with fighting prescription drug abuse through the Prescription Safety Act of 2012, the 2014 Prescription for Success Initiative and the work of the Public Safety Subcabinet.

According to political data from Quorum, since 2011, legislators have introduced 55 opioid-related state bills.

Quorum reports Governor Haslam has signed about half of these bills --29-- into law.

Right now, the CDC is the only agency stepping up to draft guidelines on opioid prescriptions in America.

If you know anyone struggling with addiction, Addiction Campuses has a 24/7 hotline: 1.888.614.2251

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