Everyone is alarmed by the deadly opioid epidemic sweeping our country. But most of the discussion about causes and cures misses the most fundamental issue.

Pharma is the main culprit in starting and maintaining the problem. And it should be held responsible for cleaning it up.

During the past two decades, US drug companies have been only marginally less ruthless than Mexican drug cartels in pushing opioid drugs and addicting millions of Americans to them.

I have previously described the hypocritical role of the highly esteemed Sackler family. Much of their famous philanthropy has been financed by blood money earned from their Purdue Pharma- a leader in the fraudulent marketing that triggered and maintained the prescription opioid epidemic.

Drug companies and drug company executives must be exposed and punished. They have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and deserve massive fines needed now to help those who are currently addicted.

I have asked Art Levine to provide insights on what has happened and what needs to be done. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and author of the new book, “Mental Health, Inc.: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens”.

Art writes: “It’s hard to remember, amid all the daily outrages committed by President Trump, that he actually promised to do something in late August about what he declared to be a “national emergency” created by the opioid crisis that is driving most of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths a year.

As usual with Trump, nothing happened as a result of his comments. His administration hasn’t gotten around to actually taking the necessary actions to invoke federal emergency powers that could allow the government to better help substance abusers.

What you don’t see under serious consideration by the Trump administration is any meaningful crackdown on drug industry fraud or its corruption of researchers and government officials that fueled the opioid crisis in the first place.

And the recently established federal interagency pain advisory panel has many members with financial conflicts of interest connecting them to the drug industry that our government should be investigating- not obeying it like lapdogs.

Opioids have become the new corporate gold rush, with over a third of Americans being prescribed the drugs, mostly for short-term use.

Starting in the 1990s, Purdue Pharma used grants, subsidies and artful fakery to spread the notion among leading medical organizations that opioids- especially its new long-lasting, abuse-proof narcotic, OxyContin- weren’t addictive for chronic pain patients.

Flush with drug industry money, non-profits such as The Joint Commission, the leading regulator of hospitals, and industry front-groups parading as “pain specialists” led the drive to evaluate hospitals and doctors on how aggressively they were treating patients to relieve pain; they promoted the unfounded, opioid-pushing view of pain as the “Fifth Vital Sign.”

All this was boosted by the exaggerated…