Opioid overdose deaths

DOJ watchdog slams DEA for approving large surge in opioid production

Oxycodone
Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

The Drug Enforcement Agency authorized manufacturers to continue producing substantial amounts of the narcotic painkiller oxycodone between 2002 and 2013, despite the dramatic increase in deaths from opioid overdoses, according to a report by the Justice Department's inspector general released Tuesday.

Why it matters: Drug companies have been the target of blame for the drastic climb in opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. over the past 2 decades, and they're now facing thousands of lawsuits from cities and other communities. The companies' defense in many of these lawsuits is that they were producing pills at a level permissible by the DEA.

The first big opioids verdict is both big and small

Illustration of a hand holding a small scale with pills on one side and money on the other
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Johnson & Johnson has officially been found liable in Oklahoma for deceptive and false marketing of opioids — the first major instance of legal accountability for the opioid epidemic.

Yes, but: If Oklahoma's $572 million judgment is a sign of things to come, states may only be looking at short-term relief — and drug companies may only incur short-term annoyances, rather than crippling penalties.