The big picture

Mental health coverage is getting worse

That's happening as opioid overdoses and suicide rates rise.

Nov 21, 2019 - Health
Today's health problems are tomorrow's health crises

Rising obesity rates will strain the most expensive health care system in the world.

Oct 31, 2019 - Health
The plight of America's rural health care

That makes rural Americans even more vulnerable.

Aug 21, 2019 - Health

All Opioids stories

Updated Dec 22, 2020 - Health

Justice Department sues Walmart, alleging role in opioid crisis

Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The Trump administration sued Walmart on Tuesday, accusing its pharmacies of not properly screening questionable painkiller prescriptions and filling them, ultimately fueling nationwide addiction.

Why it matters: The major retailer "knowingly filled thousands of controlled substance prescriptions that were not issued for legitimate medical purposes or in the usual course of medical practice," the Justice Department alleges.

Dec 17, 2020 - Health

CDC: Drug overdose deaths accelerated during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An estimated 81,000 people died from a drug overdose between June 2019 and May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released on Thursday.

Why it matters: The provisional data suggests the pandemic accelerated overdose deaths.

Nov 28, 2020 - Health

McKinsey advised Purdue to offer rebates for opioid overdoses

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company advised Purdue Pharma, producer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, to give drug distributors a rebate for every OxyContin overdose attributable to pills they sold, according to bankruptcy filings obtained and reviewed by the New York Times.

Why it matters: It was one of several options McKinsey gave the Sackler family, Purdue’s owners, to drive sales of the drug, at a time when opioid abuse had already killed thousands of people in the U.S.

Nov 24, 2020 - Health

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to three criminal charges

Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to three criminal charges, AP reports.

Why it matters: The plea signals the company's admission it played a role in the opioid epidemic that has contributed to nearly half a million deaths over the past two decades.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 21, 2020 - Health

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to plead guilty to 3 criminal charges

Members of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a rally and die-in last year outside New Yorks Southern District Federal Court in White Plains, where Purdue Pharmaceuticals' bankruptcy hearing was being held. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges and close the company as part of an $8.3 billion settlement, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The settlement marks a significant step in the federal government's efforts to hold a major drugmaker responsible for the country's opioid crisis, which has been linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Most treatment centers lack standard of care for opioid addiction

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than 70% of residential treatment programs in the U.S. don’t offer the medical standard of care for opioid addiction, a new report published in JAMA shows.

The big picture: Many facilities pushed clinically irrelevant therapies or outright discouraged widely accepted medication-based therapies.

Jul 15, 2020 - Health

About 71,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019

A Drug Enforcement Administration chemist handling a powder containing fentanyl in 2019. Photo: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Roughly 71,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The figure represents a new record for the U.S. and follows 2018's slight drop in overdoses — the first time the number had gone down in almost 30 years.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Feb 27, 2020 - Health

First supervised drug injection site in U.S. to open in Philadelphia

Advocates for safe injection sites rally in front of the James A Byrne Federal Courthouse in Center City, Philadelphia, on Sept. 5, 2019. Photo: Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The nation's first supervised drug-use site is set to open in Philadelphia next week, after a federal judge ruled Tuesday in favor of the nonprofit that plans to open it, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: Advocates of such sites say that they help prevent deadly overdoses while potentially helping connect users with treatment, but federal law enforcement officials have said that they think such sites are illegal. The Justice Department — which brought the lawsuit against the nonprofit — said it's appealing the decision.

Go deeper: Opioid death rate in the U.S. decreased in 2018

Editor's note: The image has been changed to reflect a rally the supervised drug-use site in Philadelphia.

Feb 25, 2020 - Health

Mallinckrodt proposes $1.6 billion opioid settlement via bankruptcy

Mallinckrodt offices in New Jersey. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Mallinckrodt is floating a $1.6 billion proposal to settle allegations that it fueled the opioid crisis by pushing its painkillers. The drug company would make payments in the eight years after its generics business, which sells oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, emerges from bankruptcy.

Why it matters: The attorneys general from 47 states and territories, as well as the plaintiffs in the global opioid lawsuit, are supporting the deal, Mallinckrodt said. Mallinckrodt's brand-name drug business will not be affected, but its generics bankruptcy marks the third opioids bankruptcy, after Purdue Pharma and Insys Therapeutics.

Feb 25, 2020 - Health

Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt in turmoil as opioid settlements mount

Mallinckrodt offices in Bedminster, New Jersey. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Legal and financial troubles continue to mount for two prominent opioid manufacturers.

The big picture: The prospect of multibillion-dollar settlements — which are still a long way from being hashed out — is bringing painkiller companies that were once immensely wealthy to their knees.

More Opioids stories