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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As the worst addiction crisis in American history has shifted from prescription painkillers to heroin and now to illegal synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the death toll and drug dealers' profits have risen together.

Some perspective from a Bloomberg dive into the fentanyl supply chain: A pair of undercover detectives were able to buy a kilogram of fentanyl from China for $3,800. Once turned into tablet form and resold on the street, that’s enough to yield more than $30 million in profit.

  • A kilo of heroin, by contrast, would turn a mere 400% profit — and it’s a lot harder to get.

Fentanyl is incredibly potent. So a little bit of raw supply can go a long way. And it’s synthesized unpredictably, making it hard to know how much you’re taking (and thus more likely to overdose).

  • It’s also easy to synthesize, and China only recently outlawed some forms of fentanyl. For years, manufacturers have been shipping illicit compounds across the globe, including into the U.S., without violating Chinese law, Bloomberg writes.

“The two countries play by different rules,” Markos Kounalakis, a visiting fellow at Stanford University, told Bloomberg. “What’s bad for America is not necessarily bad for China.”

Go deeper

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.