7 Sep 2019

Scott Higham - Big Pharma's role in the US opioid crisis

From Saturday Morning, 8:10 am on 7 September 2019

Drug overdose is now the most common cause of death for Americans under 50, with nearly 50,000 people dying each year after taking opioids. 

Pulitzer-prize winning Washington Post journalist Scott Higham has been investigating the role that the drug companies play in the problem.

He has obtained internal memos and emails showing how they supplied huge quantities of potentially addictive painkillers into vulnerable communities with little regard to how they were being used and abused.

As a result of the crisis, more than 2,000 lawsuits have been filed across the US by states, councils and local authorities against the makers, distributors and sellers of the drugs.

In the first case to reach trial, last week a court in Oklahoma awarded US$572 million in damages against drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to pay for the costs of treating the opioid epidemic. Meanwhile earlier this year Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin, and pharmaceutical company Teva have reached out-of-court settlements totaling more than US$350 million dollars with Oklahoma.

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Photo: Flickr