The big picture

Drug distributors, J&J reach $26 billion opioids settlement

The amount equates to 4% of the companies' combined annual revenue.

Jul 21, 2021 - Health
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

Jury holds pharmacies responsible in groundbreaking opioids case

Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A federal jury said Tuesday that Walgreens, CVS and Walmart recklessly distributed pain pills in two Ohio counties and played a hand in the hundreds of overdose deaths that plagued the communities, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the first verdict for pharmacy companies in a case involving the opioid crisis, per AP. The verdict — with a judge set to rule on damages this spring — could set a precedent for other local governments that seek to hold pharmacies accountable.

Nov 20, 2021 - Health

Connecticut health officials warn of potential fentanyl-laced marijuana

The Connecticut House passed a bill on June 16 that would legalize marijuana in the state. Photo: Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Connecticut Department of Public Health is investigating reports of patients who said they only smoked marijuana, but displayed opioid overdose symptoms and required naloxone for revival.

Driving the news: In one of the cases, the marijuana in question tested positive for containing fentanyl, according to the state's public health agency.

Nov 17, 2021 - Health

Drug overdose deaths top 100,000 for first time

A map of downtown Los Angeles in the city's Center for Harm Reduction with blue pins representing overdose reversal and red pins showing overdose fatalities as of Sept. 28. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

An estimated 100,306 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in a 12-month period ending April 2021, according to new provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period and signals that the country is on track to set another tragic milestone after reporting a record 93,331 drug deaths in 2020.

Nov 9, 2021 - Health

Oklahoma court reverses $465M opioid verdict against Johnson & Johnson

Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a district judge's $465 million opioid verdict against Johnson & Johnson, saying that the drugmaker did not violate the state's public nuisance law.

Catch up quick: A district judge had previously ruled that J&J had violated the law because the company created a public nuisance by falsely promoting its opioids as safe and necessary. Oklahoma's high court, in a 5-1 vote, said that interpretation is wrong.

Oct 13, 2021 - Health

U.S. sees record high of 96,000 drug overdose deaths in 12 month period

Tramadol pills, an opioid. Photo: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded over 96,000 deaths from drug overdoses in a twelve-month period ending in March 2021, according to provisional data released Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's a nearly 30% jump over the preceding 12 months and coincides with one of the deadliest periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, when stay-at-home orders radically changed daily life for most Americans.

Texas Observer: Medical boards allowed abusive doctors to treat patients

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A Texas doctor accused of inappropriately touching 17 female patients had then been told by a medical board to only treat men before being reported for assault by a male patient, an investigation by the Texas Observer found.

Why it matters: Medical boards that oversee doctors across the U.S. have used this loophole of curbing the types of patients predatory doctors are allowed to see rather than revoking their licenses, experts in the report said.

Sep 16, 2021 - Health

DOJ files appeal to block Purdue Pharma deal that shields Sackler family

Fake prescription bottles of OxyContin seen dropped outside a courthouse. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Wednesday filed an appeal to block the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan, which shields the Sackler family from getting sued over opioids in the future, NPR reports.

Driving the news: Earlier this month, a federal judge approved a bankruptcy settlement that granted immunity to the Sacklers as long as they paid $4.3 billion and renounced ownership of Purdue Pharma. The DOJ said the deal was "unlawful" and "unconstitutional."

How opioid use across America varies by insurance coverage

Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults with chronic pain had used a prescription opioid in the past three months when surveyed in 2019, according to data published Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Why it matters: Prescription opioid use for chronic pain management has been associated with an increased risk of misuse, addiction and death — have been the subject of massive class-action lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Jul 27, 2021 - Health

Companies won't stress to find opioids settlement cash

Data: Company filings; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Since 2016, the four companies involved in the latest opioid settlement — Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health — have funneled a combined $100 billion to shareholders through stock buybacks and dividends.

Why it matters: If that's any indication, those companies won't have much trouble paying off a combined $26 billion settlement agreement.

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