The FDA and opioid manufacturers failed to independently determine whether physician safety training and patient medication guides mitigated improper opioid prescriptions and misuse, according to new federal records obtained by researchers through the Freedom of Information Act.
Why it matters: Federal regulators created this safety program in 2012 because opioid addictions, overdoses and deaths were rising, but researchers say the FDA's program relied on poor designs and data collection — and ultimately did nothing to prevent the opioid crisis from getting worse.
New court records reviewed by Stat show how Richard Sackler, a former executive at Purdue Pharma, guided the company's promotional strategy for the launch of its opioid pain medication OxyContin.
Why it matters: Sackler's family founded and controls Purdue Pharma. The company in 2007 pleaded guilty to a felony related to falsely promoting OxyContin as less addictive and not as likely to produce tolerance or symptoms of withdrawal than other pain medications, even though the drugs is twice as strong as morphine. More than 218,000 Americans have died from overdoses of all prescription opioids.
Major League Baseball players could be randomly tested for the first time for opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl as the sport grapples with how to address the opioid epidemic, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Why it matters: Professional athletes, who are especially prone to injury, risk greater exposure and addiction to opioids due to pain management. The discussions between the league and its players' union were prompted by the July death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who had oxycodone, fentanyl and alcohol in his system.
Go deeper: Where the major sports leagues stand on weed
Several opioid manufacturers and drug distributors are facing criminal investigations from the Department of Justice about whether they intentionally skirted federal law by not monitoring the flow of potent painkiller pills, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Why it matters: Purdue Pharma has already been ensnared in criminal probes, and now federal prosecutors are casting a wider net to determine the level of alleged wrongdoing that has resulted in tens of thousands of overdose deaths.
As suicide and overdose rates have increased, mental health and substance abuse insurance coverage has gotten worse, according to a new Milliman report commissioned by the Mental Health Treatment and Research Institute.
Why it matters: Behavioral health treatment often isn't covered by insurance, and it's often unaffordable — including for patients for whom treatment is a matter of life and death.
Johnson & Johnson will only have to pay $465 million for its role in the state's opioid crisis as of Friday, instead of the original $572 million judgment, after the Oklahoma judge overseeing the case admitted he made a math error in the abatement plan.
The big picture: Oklahoma maintained its verdict that J&J created a public nuisance by falsely promoting its opioids as safe and necessary, and J&J still plans on appealing the decision, despite the lower amount.
Walgreens handled nearly one in five oxycodone and hydrocodone pills that were shipped to pharmacies between 2006 and 2012, as the opioid epidemic worsened, the Washington Post reports.
Between the lines: Walgreens is one of the companies being sued by thousands of communities across the country in federal court.
Drug distributor Cardinal Health registered a $5.6 billion pre-tax charge in the third quarter, saying the company "agreed in principle to a global settlement" with states, cities and others to pay that amount over 18 years to resolve the opioid cases.
Why it matters: Cardinal is the first company to set aside billions of dollars in preparation for any national opioids settlement, even though a definitive settlement agreement has not been finalized.
A settlement resolving all of the pending lawsuits over the opioid crisis is "unlikely in the near term," according to state attorneys general and attorneys involved in the litigation brought by communities, the Washington Post reports.
Why it matters: That means that it could be a long time before places still plagued by the opioid epidemic receive substantial new funding to address it.
The health troubles we're seeing now — especially among young people — will continue to strain the system for years and even decades to come.
The big picture: Rising obesity rates now will translate into rising rates of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The costs of the opioid crisis will continue to mount even after the acute crisis ends. And all of this will strain what’s already the most expensive health care system in the world.