opioids

As drug firms race to position themselves as key players in the coronavirus fight, the industry faces a renewed wave of civil lawsuits stemming from its role in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic.

Thousands of cases that ground to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic are moving forward again as local, state and federal courts reopen around the United States.

Before Philadelphia shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Ed had a routine: most mornings he would head to a nearby McDonald's to brush his teeth, wash his face and — when he had the money — buy a cup of coffee. He would bounce between homeless shelters and try to get a shower. But since businesses closed and many shelters stopped taking new admissions, Ed has been mostly shut off from that routine.

Sentencing is scheduled to begin on Monday in the criminal trial of top executives at Insys Therapeutics. This landmark case was the first successful prosecution of high-ranking pharmaceutical executives linked to the opioid crisis, including onetime billionaire John Kapoor.

Colorado and local cities and counties are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors. The lawsuits are part of larger, national litigations which are still pending. While thousands of plaintiffs wait for a decision, a local nonpartisan health policy organization posed this question:

With a hypothetical $100 million settlement, how would you combat Colorado's opioid crisis?

There is a traditional treatment for babies experiencing withdrawal from opioids: newborns are separated from their mothers and taken to the neonatal intensive care unit to receive tapered doses of morphine or methadone. They can stay in the hospital for weeks.

A Colorado-based collaborative is changing this approach.

Babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy represent one of the most distressing legacies of an opioid epidemic that has claimed almost 400,000 lives and ravaged communities.

In fact, many of the ongoing lawsuits filed against drug companies make reference to these babies, fighting through withdrawal in hospital nurseries.

Updated on Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. ET

A global megacorporation best known for Band-Aids and baby powder is now on the hook for about $107 million less than originally anticipated over its role in Oklahoma's opioid crisis.

In a judgment filed Friday, state District Judge Thad Balkman revised an earlier ruling against Johnson & Johnson and told the drugmaker to make a onetime payment of $465 million — not the $572 million he had originally ordered.

TOPEKA, Kansas — More than two dozen cities and counties across Kansas have sued the opioid industry, from a small town with a population of 150 near the Colorado border to the state’s most populous county at its opposite end.

More may still file suits, legal experts say. And those that don’t could get a payout regardless if opioid makers, distributors and vendors opt for a global settlement. That would not only end the massive snarl of lawsuits brought by 2,600 parties nationwide but also prevent tens of thousands of other local governments from taking them to court, too.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers continues to combat Colorado's opioid crisis.

The Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee recently advanced five bills for the state legislature to consider in January.

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Three of the biggest U.S. drug distributors and a drug manufacturer have reached a last-minute deal with two Ohio counties to avoid what would have been the first trial in a landmark federal case on the opioid crisis.

Summit and Cuyahoga counties announced Monday morning that the tentative deal amounts to roughly $260 million.

Public Domain via USAF

An Oklahoma judge this week acknowledged that he made a calculation error worth over 100 million dollars, during a prominent case regarding the states opioid crisis earlier this year.

As StateImpact reports, on Tuesday Oklahoma District Court Judge Thad Balkman acknowledged that his ruling, which ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay 572 million dollars, included a substantial math error.

There's no doubt that opioids have been massively overprescribed in U.S. In the haste to address the epidemic, there's been pressure on doctors to reduce prescriptions of these drugs — and in fact prescriptions are declining. But along the way, some chronic pain patients have been forced to rapidly taper or discontinue the drugs altogether.

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a new message for doctors: Abrupt changes to a patient's opioid prescription could harm them.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Two years after closing an office in Garden City, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week it’s coming back to town.

The agency’s new setup comes at a time when methamphetamine seizures are on the rise in Finney County and the area’s seen some drug-related shootings. Plus, states are grappling with the fallout of billions of opioids distributed throughout the U.S., and western Kansas has few drug rehabilitation options.

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged 58 people across Texas with health care fraud costing at least $66 million, including “pill mill” schemes involving opioids. Doctors and medical professionals are among those facing charges.

This story was updated at 10 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2019, to reflect comments from the Bureau of Prisons.

The federal Bureau of Prisons will provide opioid addiction treatment for a prisoner at the Leavenworth penitentiary, according to a settlement reached Wednesday.

More than 100 people die every day from an opioid overdose, and millions of Americans are struggling with addiction. Scott Walters is with the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth — and he's leading a new effort aimed at trying to attack the opioid crisis.

More than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, and a growing number of those deaths are attributed to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. Journalist Ben Westhoff says the drug, while an important painkiller and anesthesia medicine in hospitals, is now killing more Americans annually as a street drug than any other in U.S. history.

The recent court ruling that held the pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, accountable for its role in Oklahoma’s opioid crisis could influence some of the pending lawsuits seeking to hold energy companies accountable for their role in the climate crisis. That includes one case in the Mountain West.

Updated at 7:04 p.m. ET

An Oklahoma judge has ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped ignite the state's opioid crisis by deceptively marketing painkillers, and must pay $572 million to the state.

Oklahoma sought $17.5 billion, blaming Johnson & Johnson for fueling the crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in the state.

An Oklahoma judge will announce a ruling Monday in the state's multibillion-dollar case against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. The case is being closely watched to see if a court is prepared to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for contributing to the opioid crisis that took more than 47,000 American lives in 2017 alone.

A national cooperative bank is the latest group to join Colorado's effort to curb opioid abuse.

The Regional Forensic Science Center is getting new equipment to help identify opioid drugs that are circulating in south-central Kansas.

Sedgwick County commissioners voted Wednesday to accept a $155,017 federal grant to pay for the machine. The Wichita-based crime lab will use the new device to streamline testing processes and reduce analysis time.

Tim Rohrig, director of the Regional Forensic Science Center, says the equipment will target the opioid abuse problem.

Published May 28, 4:00 a.m. | Updated May 29, 9:48 a.m.

Standing on Colfax Avenue across from the state Capitol, Vernon Lewis, in a red cap that matches his shirt, describes a near-death event that happened a few months back when a man overdosed near a park bench.

“He was drinking, and I guess he took his medication,” he said. “His medication was Oxy.”

Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET:

The first case in a flood of litigation against opioid drug manufacturers opened on Tuesday in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's suit alleges Johnson & Johnson, the nation's largest drugmaker, helped ignite a public health crisis that has killed thousands of state residents.

Johnson & Johnson is the sole defendant in the case after two other companies — Teva Pharmaceuticals and Purdue Pharma — both settled with the state before the trial began.

The Colorado Office of Behavioral Health received a federal grant in April 2017 to address the state's growing opioid crisis. That year, 560 Coloradans died from opioid overdoses. KUNC's Stephanie Daniel spoke to director Robert Werthwein, director of the state agency, about their addiction, prevention and treatment efforts.

Colorado will need to do more than just cut opioid prescriptions to end its opioid epidemic. That’s according to a new analysis from the American Medical Association, the Colorado Medical Society and Manatt Health.

Addiction-recovery homes across Oklahoma are turning away people who are trying to escape opioid addiction by taking medications considered highly effective for recovery.

When Victoria Worden of Kansas City was pregnant with her fourth child, she was addicted to heroin and hated herself for it.