Opioid Crisis News | August 26, 2019

PR Newswire PR Newswire • September 8, 2019

As the opioid epidemic rages on, so too does the battle to end it. In this past month alone, activists and the family members of opioid victims have seen several victories, along with a few setbacks. Check out what’s been happening in August with opioid crisis news.

Johnson & Johnson Held Liable for Oklahoma’s Opioid Crisis  

On Monday, August 26, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572.1 million in damages to the state, citing the company’s role in fueling the opioid epidemic through deceptive marketing tactics. J&J, which is better known for baby products and Band-Aids, plans to appeal the decision, even though the state originally sought $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

J&J’s role in the opioid crisis is a critical one. Prior to the rise of opioid abuse, the company bought a plot of land off the coast of Australia so it could cultivate a reliable supply of opium for its Tylenol with codeine product. By 2015, the J&J was the leading provider for raw ingredients in painkillers in the U.S. Sometime between 1980 and 2015, the company developed a strain of poppy called Norman, which is the core painkiller agent used in today’s most highly abused opiate, OxyContin. 

Maker of OxyContin Offers up to $12 Billion in Settlement

Less than one day after Johnson & Johnson settled with the state of Oklahoma for $575 million, Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family, makers of the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin, have offered to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits for $12 billion. In addition to the money, the deal reportedly involves the Sacklers giving up ownership of Purdue Pharma and paying $3 billion of the total settlement themselves. The company would file for bankruptcy, and Purdue would become a “public beneficiary trust.” Similar to Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma denies any wrongdoing and plans to appeal the decision. 

Investigators Seize Enough Fentanyl To Kill 14 Million

In a massive drug bust, Virginia law enforcement officers appropriated enough fentanyl to kill 14 million people on the morning of August 31. The drug ring spanned three states. So far, 35 suspects have been arrested, and another four are on the run.

In addition to 30 kilograms of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid from China, the investigators also rounded up 5 kilograms of cocaine, 30 kilograms of heroin and more than $700,000 in cash. Authorities also found 24 firearms, one of which was an AK-47. This bust, otherwise known as “Operation Cookout,” is the largest drug bust Virginia has seen in 15 years. Much of the fentanyl was coming from China through the U.S. Postal Service.

Trump Asks Carriers To ‘Search for and Refuse’ Fentanyl Shipments From China

In a string of tweets beginning on Friday, August 23, President Donald Trump requested major package carriers such as UPS, Amazon, FedEx and the United States Postal Service to “search for and refuse” fentanyl-containing packages that originate from China. Per one report, China is the largest source of fentanyl for the U.S.

Though it is unclear as to whether or not any official guidelines will follow Trump’s tweets, a couple carriers have responded. UPS asserts it adheres to all applicable laws and orders of governments of the countries with which it does business. FedEx asserts it fully supports the STOP Act and implements and enforces its provisions to ensure the ongoing health and safety of the American people.

Because fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine, the Department of Homeland Security has talked about classifying it as a weapon of mass destruction. As little as $5,000 can purchase enough of the product to take the lives of a half-million people.

Hepatitis A Is a Dark Shadow of the Opioid Crisis

Hepatitis A, a contagious liver disease, has cropped up in 29 states since 2016, sickened more than 23,600 and killed more than 230. Outbreaks are all but ongoing in all 50 states with the exception of California and Utah. Though anyone can catch the virus, as it’s highly contagious and spreads as easily as the stomach flu, experts link the rising number of outbreaks to opioid use.

That said, while hepatitis A once overwhelmingly affected the homeless and drug users, more states are noticing outbreaks among the general population. For instance, 1 in 5 Kentuckians who contracted the virus between August 2017 and mid-2019 fit neither group. Nearly 40% of cases in Florida from 2018 to the first half of 2019 arose from no known risk factors.

Check back soon for more opioid crisis news.

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