Updated at 12:14 p.m. ET

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday a global settlement of civil and criminal investigations into Purdue Pharma's aggressive marketing of opioid medications, including OxyContin.

Federal officials have long maintained Purdue's actions helped fuel a prescription opioid epidemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Substance Abuse Gainesville

Some drug and alcohol treatment centers in Kentucky are reporting an increase in demand for services since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March. Megan Escamilla, the Clinical Director of Addiction Services at Lifeskills in Bowling Green, said the pandemic may have disrupted recovery routines for clients, but resources are still available.

"There are many resources available, and regardless if it's their first time in treatment or their tenth time in treatment.  The big thing to focus on is that they're in treatment and this may be the time to get those additional supports they need in order to maintain their recovery."                                                                

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy recently reported a five-percent increase in drug overdose deaths in the state for 2019. Executive Director Van Ingram said COVID-19 is already impacting the numbers for 2020.

Legal experts expected this to be the year we answered big questions about the liability that drug companies face for the deadly opioid epidemic and for their role in marketing high-risk prescription pain medications.

Instead, the legal fight over who will pay to clean up the addiction crisis dissolved into confusion and infighting.

"I don't know if there's a clear road map," said Adam Zimmerman, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert in opioid litigation.

The Ohio River Valley has seen some of the largest jumps in mortality rates among people in midlife — those between ages 25 and 64 — in recent years.

Updated at 1:22 p.m. ET

The family that owns Purdue Pharma pulled billions of dollars from the company after introducing its signature opioid medication, OxyContin, growing personally wealthy as the heavily marketed drug took on a significant role in a nationwide addiction crisis.

People have been playing music together in the small Appalachian town of Hindman, Ky., since it was founded in the late 1800s. Today, one of the few businesses still open in the town is the Appalachian School of Luthiery, which teaches people how to build wooden stringed instruments. Now that school is playing a role in helping the local community overcome drug addiction.


Kentucky and other states will participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, Oct. 26, and the Drug Enforcement Administration is expanding what it will accept to include vaping products.

Prescription Drug Take Back Day began a decade ago to allow households to safely discard of expired and unused prescription drugs anonymously to prevent theft or abuse. 

For the first time, the DEA-sponsored event will accept vaping pens and cartridges, although the DEA can't take devices containing lithium ion batteries.

While thousands of cities and counties have banded together to sue opioid makers and distributors in a federal court, another group of plaintiffs has started to sue on their own: hospitals.

Sharyn Morrow/Flickr

Tennessee's top lawyer and his counterparts in three other states announced Monday that they've negotiated a deal with the opioid industry worth nearly $50 billion, a pact that they hope will change the behavior of opioid makers and distributors.

The proposed legal settlement includes about $22 billion in cash and nearly $29 billion in opioid addiction treatment, including suboxone provided free of charge. And the deal would set new rules for drug companies, says Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, such as having to set up compliance departments that look for red flags, like suspiciously large purchases.



Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 24

Make no mistake: The legal fight over liability for the U.S. opioid crisis is only heating up.

Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force

Eleven drug task force agencies across Kentucky are using a new hand-held device that gives them the ability to analyze drugs in the field before sending them to a lab.  

The TruNarc device uses laser technology to identify a wide range of drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, which can be harmful or even deadly, if absorbed through the skin or inhaled.

Tod Young is deputy director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Task Force. He said TruNarc uses a process known as Raman spectroscopy to analyze illegal drugs without having to open a packet. 

“The laser provides us with a spectrum of the molecules of the substance that we’re looking at," said Young.  "Inside the device, the computer compares the spectrum or fingerprint of what we’re looking at to a known library of substances.” 

Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton says that the state needs more money for drug courts and special courts that work with veterans and people with mental health conditions amid the state’s drug addiction epidemic.

Minton, a native of Bowling Green, made the remarks during his annual State of the Judiciary Address on Friday.

Minton said that the special courts currently serve fewer than 2,500 people and that number should be expanded amid Kentucky’s opioid crisis.


Big Question in Opioid Suits: How to Divide Possible Settlement

Jul 29, 2019
Mary Meehan | Ohio Valley ReSource

The roughly 2,000 state and local governments suing the drug industry over the deadly opioid crisis have yet to see any verdicts or reach any big national settlements but are already tussling with each other over how to divide any money they collect.

The reason: Some of them want to avoid what happened 20 years ago, when states agreed to a giant settlement with the tobacco industry and used most of the cash on projects that had little to do with smoking's toll.

"If we don't use dollars recovered from these opioid lawsuits to end the opioid epidemic, shame on us," Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said.

Kentucky Reports Drop In Drug Overdose Deaths In 2018

Jul 18, 2019
Mary Meehan | Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky officials are reporting the first statewide drop in drug overdose deaths since 2013.

A report issued Thursday says 1,333 people died from drug overdoses in 2018, down from a record 1,566 deaths the prior year. The decline follows years of steady increases in the death toll, driven mostly by surges in opioid abuse, heroin and fentanyl.

The report says the largest drop in fatal overdoses occurred in Jefferson County — Kentucky’s most populous county.

51fifty at the English language Wikipedia

Two newly released sets of government data show that the death toll from the nation’s opioid crisis may finally be dropping and also reveal the scale of the pain pill sales that help set the crisis in motion. The data for the Ohio Valley show how hard the region was hit and how hard people in these communities have been fighting to save lives.

Preliminary health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that fatalities from opioid overdose fell last year for the first time after decades of grim increase. Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia – which have consistently suffered some of the highest fatality rates in the country – saw some of the most significant improvement.