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Host John Oliver came out swinging at Big Pharma last night in a segment about the opioid epidemic on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

“America is now in the midst of a new drug crisis, and it seems that no one is safe from it,” Oliver said. It’s estimated that 2.1 million people in the US abuse prescription opioid painkillers. Another 467,000 people in the US are addicted to heroin, also a type of opioid.


Oliver took Purdue Pharma — the developer of OxyContin — and other drug companies to task for their marketing tactics which helped fuel the opioid epidemic. It wasn’t just Purdue — internal documents show that Abbott Laboratories, which helped to market the drug, went to great lengths to make OxyContin a billion-dollar blockbuster.

“But at a certain point, the question has to become less ‘What did we do wrong?’ and more ‘What do we do now?’” Oliver said. He added that he’d like to see doctors prescribe opioids more carefully and alternative treatments become more accessible. He pointed to a step earlier this year, when the CDC issued sweeping guidelines calling for opioid prescriptions only when other options have failed and only for short courses.

“It won’t be cheap, it won’t be quick, and it won’t be easy. And it is hard not to be angry at the drug companies, like Purdue, whose promise of cheap, quick, easy pain solution helped put us in this [mess],” Oliver said. Watch the full segment:


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