The real villain of the opioid crisis is the healthcare industry, experts say

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SAN DIEGO — The opioid crisis in the United States is not the result of poverty. It wasn’t caused by income inequality, the financial crisis or globalization either.

The clear villain is the healthcare industry.

That’s the conclusion of two Princeton University economists, Angus Deaton and Ann Case, who have been studying opioid addiction.

In a panel discussion of their new book, “Deaths of Despair,” at the American Economic Association annual meeting this weekend, Case and Deaton said the crisis was caused by the healthcare system.

Pharmaceutical companies introduced the product and set something in motion that was hard to stop. Doctors were too careless prescribing the drugs, and the Food and Drug Administration didn’t stop to think how the drugs would influence the community, they said.

There is a tremendous amount of unfairness in the system, Case said. Profits and executive salaries in the healthcare sector are soaring.

“Life expectancy is now falling, while money is being redistributed upward,” Case said.

The healthcare system is “like tribute to a foreign power, but we do it to ourselves,” she added.

Read: Why American capitalism isn’t working, according to Angus Deaton

Deaton said the healthcare industry is “so incredibly protected” by politicians that reform seems impossible.

Progressive Democrats, who have offered sweeping changes in the healthcare system, like “Medicare for All,” are focused on the wrong thing, Deaton said.

The real problem is the high cost of care, not coverage, he said.

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