July 11, 2017

Howdy, Friends O’Farley…

Welcome to the first off-session Farley Report of 2017. It’s a doozy.

Allow me to first apologize for the delay in getting this to you. On June 5th at Tucson’s historic Arizona Inn, I announced that I am running to be your governor in 2018. This first month on the campaign trail has been amazing. We’ve traveled from Flagstaff to Yuma, Nogales to Sedona, and Chandler to Peoria. I’ve listened to voters and shared my vision for a better Arizona.

There is no better state for a non-stop road trip. I promise to share some of these great stories from the campaign trail in future Farley Reports. But for this Report, I want to focus on a strange coincidence. On the very same morning I announced my campaign, Governor Ducey decided to declared a state of emergency over the opioid epidemic affecting Arizona and the rest of the country.

While the timing was interesting in that it showed clear concern on the part of the Ninth Floor over my prospects of winning in 2018, I saw nothing darker until I heard an NPR investigation that connected the dots for me. Doug Ducey’s prescription for dealing with the epidemic turns out to be part of a continuing pattern of pursuing policies that help insider lobbyists at the expense of the people of Arizona.

I’ll connect the dots for you after the Farley Report Pledge Break…

—> I am doing everything I can to be your next governor. This election offers the best opportunity in years to create real change in Arizona. Imagine our state as a light unto the nation, not a joke on late-night television. A place where public education is fully funded and everyone has quality, affordable healthcare and the opportunity to work at a livable wage. This future is within our reach, but I need your help.

Please sign my nominating petition to help qualify for the ballot in November 2018. Please tell your friends and ask them to sign my petition. The first step to bringing change to Arizona is to put me on the ballot! The only way we win this is together, and I am honored to have your support. You can find my petition here.

—>  Last January, Governor Ducey introduced us to a new drug in his State of the State speech — Vivitrol. Here’s how he explained it in his words:

“Many of our citizens have found themselves struggling because of an epidemic plaguing our entire country – drug addiction. Vivitrol has been called a “Miracle Drug” – blocking heroin and painkiller addictions, even alcoholism, and allowing millions of Americans to gain their lives back. This morning I signed an Executive Order so that, effective immediately, people leaving our prison system have the opportunity to be treated with this blocker, before they walk out the doors, to maximize their success of never ever going back.”

He has a point — addiction is a huge problem in Arizona, and needs to be dealt with. Out of the 19,000 inmates released from state prison each year, it is estimated that more than 13,000 of them have an active substance abuse problem. If we treat for the addiction that in most cases contributed to the crimes they committed in the first place, chances are they will not go back to using and thus not go back to committing crimes.

That’s why I have been advocating for years for increased use of treatment programs for prisoners. Just over 900 prisoners (out of the more than 13,000 who needed it) were sent through a program last year that has been proven to reduce recidivism (and future crimes) by more than half, saving the state money, and reducing the number of people who are victims of crime.

But instead of investing in proven treatment programs, Governor Ducey decided to go with a new and relatively untested “miracle drug” which costs the state $1,000 a month to administer. Why?

Vivitrol is manufactured by a company called Alkermes. Alkermes is a partner at the American Legislative Exchange Council — ALEC — an organization of large corporations and Republican state legislators which has been behind much conservative legislation across the country for years. For more on ALEC, see Bill Moyers’ excellent documentary, “The United States of ALEC”.

According to SourceWatch, in 2012 at the ALEC Charlotte meeting, the gathered legislators and lobbyists passed a resolution called, “Resolution in Support of Evidence-based Medical Treatment for Substance Use Disorders,” presented by Suzanne Gelber, Alkermes Inc. This proposal requires that “evidence-based medical treatment should be made available in the treatment of offenders with substance use disorders,” a provision that only describes Vivitrol and leaves out the other addiction treatment drugs sold by Alkermes’ competitors.

According to June 12’s investigative report from NPR, addiction experts are not at all sure that Vivitrol is effective. They are sure that it is being aggressively marketed to state legislatures all over the country as Alkermes’ profits increase dramatically. Here are some in-depth excerpts from that story:

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“In statehouses across the country, and in Congress, Alkermes is pushing Vivitrol while contributing to misconceptions and stigma about other medications used to treat opioid addiction. While policymakers are grasping for solutions to the nation’s opioid epidemic, Alkermes, which has its U.S. headquarters in Waltham, Mass., is using policy to promote its drug and, in some cases, hamper access to medications that can help. And in so doing, it’s looking to turn its drug into a blockbuster…

“Alkermes is a niche player in the pharmaceutical industry, and Vivitrol is central to the company’s growth plans. Although the drug was first approved to treat alcohol addiction in 2006, it wasn’t until the company began marketing Vivitrol to law enforcement and policymakers that sales took off. Last year, Vivitrol’s sales reached $209 million — up from just $30 million in 2011. Some of that money comes directly from the federal and state governments, through Medicaid and other programs that help people pay for addiction treatment. In the presentation, Alkermes said sales could reach $1 billion by 2021…

“But a number of people working in the field of addiction policy are concerned about their tactics.In a number of states, there has been a significant push by Alkermes and their lobbyists to really squelch other treatment, so that they can get access to bigger markets for their drug,’ says Dr. Corey Waller, an addiction specialist who heads legislative advocacy for the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Waller says people should be wary of the notion that Vivitrol is better than other drugs to treat opioid addiction. No studies comparing Vivitrol with buprenorphine or methadone have been published…

“Waller says it is troubling to see Alkermes promote legislation that makes it harder for patients to get access to other FDA-approved treatments. ‘It’s just unethical,’ he said. With millions of people addicted to opioids, the people treating addiction want to reduce the pain, suffering and death associated with the disease. To do that, they need whatever medications are available, not just one.”

——

The Vivitrol episode is yet another chapter in what is undoubtedly a disturbing pattern emerging of Governor Ducey cozying up to flashy corporations and offering up the citizens of Arizona as experimental subjects for their unproven products.

Governor Ducey has only been in office for two and a half years. the Vivitrol experience is the fourth suspect corporate experiment he has inflicted upon us over that time. Let’s review:

1) Theranos. I was one of only two legislators to vote against Governor Ducey’s bill to allow this Silicon Valley startup to try out its unproven blood-testing product on our citizens. Turns out the product gave false results and endangered lives. The company is now an international symbol of arrogance and failure.

2) Uber. After Uber’s self-driving cars left California, Governor Ducey placed a “Welcome Uber” sign on the Executive Tower and held a press conference declaring that Uber had to flee because of “California’s burdensome regulations” and they were free to test their product on Arizona streets. In February it was revealed that they were kicked out of California because six of those cars ran red lights while people were in crosswalks.

3) Private-school vouchers for all. At the urging of national conservative figures like Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos, and Grover Norquist, Governor Ducey pushed through the voucher bill in April, swiping taxpayer money from neighborhood district schools and giving it to unaccountable private schools. The backers said this was just a six-year “experiment” on our children.  National education researchers have already uncovered the results of this experiment — student achievement is cut in half in the first year after taking a voucher.

4) And now Vivitrol.

It would appear that Governor Ducey is governing our state for the benefit of his corporate cronies, not for the rest of us. He does not share our priorities. We can and will do better than this. It’s time for change.

—> For the hundreds of you who were able to attend our jam-packed announcement at the Arizona Inn on June 5th, I cannot thank you enough. If were unable to make it, you can get a sense of the energy and excitement in the room from these photos, taken by the talented photographer Kathleen Dreier.

The only way we win is together. Tell your friends and family that there is hope afoot. We can be a light unto the nation, not a joke on late-night television. Please email me at Steve@FarleyForArizona.com if you’d like me to come speak at your group or attend an event.

I’ve already traveled to so many great towns and attended unforgettable events like Bisbee Pride and The 4th of July Parade in Flagstaff. Soon we’ll be in Clarkdale, Payson, Kingman, Winslow, and the White Mountains. My key to victory is simple: Meet as many Arizonans as possible. I hope to see you or hear from you soon!

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

If you like my representation and want to keep me in office, CONTRIBUTE TODAY!

July 12, 2017