opioids

Updated November 23, 2021 at 8:23 PM ET

A federal jury on Tuesday found three of the nation's biggest pharmacy chains, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, liable for helping to fuel the U.S. opioid crisis — a decision that's expected to have legal repercussions as thousands of similar lawsuits move forward in courts across the country.

Erica Peterson

A Southern Indiana county is on pace to have one of its worst years ever for opioid overdoses.

Last week, the Clark County Health Department received two notifications from the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics, or ESSENCE. Health officer Dr. Eric Yazel said the system sends the notifications when a high number of overdoses are treated at local hospitals.

Between Aug. 22 and Aug. 26, 21 people came to Clark Memorial’s emergency department because of an overdose. Another notification was sent after 12 overdoses were treated in a little more than a day, from Aug. 25 to the early morning of Aug. 27.

Kate Howard

Kentucky will get more than $460 million as part of a multistate settlement with Johnson & Johnson and other opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The settlement is the result of several lawsuits Kentucky has filed against pharmaceutical companies. Proceeds will be put toward addiction treatment and prevention and will be distributed to the state over the coming years.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced the windfall on Wednesday, saying the companies created and fueled the opioid epidemic.

“There is hardly a family anywhere that has been immune to the scourge of opioids,” Cameron said during a news conference. “We’ve lost thousands of our fellow Kentuckians and seen families and children torn apart by the grips of addiction.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/OpenFile Vancour

The Muhlenberg County Health Department is providing free Naloxone kits and training for those wanting to learn how to help people who have overdosed on opioids.

Carolyn Bullock works at the health department, and says the nasal kits are designed to be an easy and quick way for family, friends, and first responders to provide life-saving help to someone who overdosed.

“It attaches to the same part of the brain as the opioid, so it blocks their effect for about 30 to 90 minutes, and gives you time to get them emergency help, and it reverses the symptoms that would otherwise lead to death.”

Those wanting to learn how to administer Naloxone can attend one of two virtual information sessions being offered by the health department on Thursday.

Bullock says those wanting the training and naloxone kits can attend the virtual sessions without giving their name. Those who complete one of the training sessions will have a free naloxone kit mailed to them.

For months, members of the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, have portrayed their bid for immunity from future opioid lawsuits as a kind of fait accompli, a take-it-or-leave-it fix to a legal morass.

Imagine you're part of a project that goes horribly wrong at work, causing a scandal, costing your company a ton of money, maybe even putting people at risk. Now imagine after that kind of performance your company rewards you with a raise and a bonus.

Critics say that's happening right now with CEOs at big drug and health care companies tangled up in the opioid crisis.

"When leadership fails ... the board of directors have to be willing to hold their executives accountable," said Shawn Wooden, Connecticut's state treasurer.

White House Office of National Drug Control

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released drug overdose death data last December, it warned about the impacts the ongoing pandemic has had on the addiction crisis.

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”

Only four states in the U.S. saw a decline in overdose deaths. Deaths increased in the remaining states. The rate of overdose deaths in Kentucky increased by 27% and in West Virginia by 31.7% — both were higher than the national increase of 21%. 

Alexandra Kanik

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia will collectively receive roughly $45 million as part of settlement agreements announced Thursday resolving lawsuits against consulting giant McKinsey & Company related to the opioid epidemic.

States had sued McKinsey because the company had advised opioid medication makers and distributors for several years during the height of the opioid crisis. The settlement details how McKinsey advised companies on how to maximize profits, including specific messages intended to get physicians to prescribe more doses of drugs such as OxyContin.

The company admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to a $537 million dollar settlement with 47 states, and a separate settlement with West Virginia.

The Trump administration introduced new addiction treatment guidelines Thursday that give physicians more flexibility to prescribe a drug to patients struggling with opioid addiction.

When Ashwani Sheoran showed up for early morning shifts at pharmacies in rural Michigan wearing his white Walmart smock, he often found customers waiting, desperate for bottles of pain pills.

"I see my patients, 15 to 20, already lined up to get prescriptions filled for morphine sulfate, oxycodone and other straight narcotics," he said.

This was in 2012 when the prescription opioid epidemic was exploding, killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.

New federal data shows the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the country’s deadliest 12-month period for drug overdose fatalities, including a sharp increase in overdose deaths in the Ohio Valley. 

According to the latest data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 81,000 people died due to drug overdoses in the 12 months from May 2019 through May 2020 — the largest number of overdose deaths recorded in a year —  forcing the federal agency to issue a health advisory making recommendations to tackle this spike in deaths.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Walmart on Tuesday, alleging that the retail giant unlawfully dispensed controlled substances from pharmacies it operated nationwide.

Rebecca Kiger

A report from a federal oversight agency shows that over 4,000 patients in the Ohio Valley received high amounts of opioids in 2018 through Medicaid, potentially putting hundreds at risk of addiction and overdose. 

 

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services focused the report on six Appalachian states in support of their partnership with law enforcement agencies who are in the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force.

 

The IG’s Office found through claims data from Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia that nearly 400 Medicaid patients in the Ohio Valley who received high amounts of opioids are at serious risk of opioid misuse or overdose.

 

Rebecca Kiger

New research shows that deaths due to the mix of substance abuse and suicides known as “diseases of despair” declined slightly in 2018. But the mortality rates throughout the Ohio Valley and Appalachian region are still higher than the national average.

A report from the Appalachian Regional Commission found that overall mortality rates from diseases of despair, which include suicide, liver disease, and overdoses, decreased between 2017 and 2018 — the first decline since 2012.

But the research, done by the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis and Center for Rural Health Research at East Tennessee State University, shows those mortality rates are still disproportionately higher for Appalachia compared to the rest of the United States.


When then-presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in Manchester, N.H., a week before the 2016 election, he said the opioid crisis was destroying lives and shattering families.

"We are going to stop the inflow of drugs into New Hampshire and into our country 100%," Trump promised.

It was a major campaign issue. Overdoses were surging in battleground states key to the election, like New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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