Tip News

November 17, 2019

Five key things about fentanyl and America's opioids crisis - Tip News

Five key things about fentanyl and America's opioids crisis

Five key things about fentanyl and America's opioids crisis
'A December 2018 report found that fentanyl use has surged in recent years because of heroin and prescription pill shortages, and because it is cheaper for drug wholesalers to produce than heroin' - By: HANDOUT/AFP/File Drug Enforcement Administration

Jury selection has begun in a landmark federal case on Ohio on whether drug companies can be held responsible for the opioids epidemic that is raging across America.

The case is seen as a test for the entire pharmaceuticals industry, which stands accused of fueling the crisis by aggressively promoting painkillers that can become dangerously addictive.

Perhaps predictably, the companies are negotiating to possibly avoid trial, thereby avoiding a precedent-setting verdict.

Fentanyl is the primary synthetic opioid available in the United States, a class of drug that was responsible for almost 32,000 overdose deaths last year.

Here are five things to know in order to understand the crisis:

- What is fentanyl? -

Fentanyl was first developed in 1959 and introduced to the US market in the 1960s as an intravenous anesthetic.

It is used to manage severe pain -- for example, among cancer patients or those receiving end-of-life care.

It is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But it is also produced illegally and trafficked into the United States -- primarily from China and Mexico -- in the form of powder or tablets, and sometimes gets mixed with heroin and cocaine.

Fentanyl can be lethal in a dose of as little as two milligrams, equivalent to a few grains of sand.

- How many deaths? -

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported more than 400,000 deaths from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2018. On average, about 130 Americans die each day.

While the crisis first erupted in the 1990s, the number of deaths exploded starting 2013, when fentanyl use began to surge.

Last year, the number of fatal overdoses fell for the first time in 20 years in the United States, but deaths due to the use of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids mounted, totaling 32,000.

- Where does it come from? -

Powdered fentanyl can be bought on the dark web or even business trading sites like Weiku.com, according to Roger Bate, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who published a report on the drug earlier this year.

A kilo sourced from China can be purchased in the United States for as little as $1700, which is then used to create up to a million pills that, when sold for $10 to $20, each generate millions in revenue, according to the DEA.

Mexican gangs also play a large role in producing and distributing the drug, with precursor chemicals first smuggled into Mexico via the southwestern United States.

Some illicit fentanyl products are also brought into the United States via Canada, which until 2017 did not allow authorities to open the contents of mail weighing less than 30 grams.

- Who's to blame? -

Experts agree that in part, the crisis stems from the prescription use of painkillers gone wrong. Doctors seeking to manage their patients' pain overprescribed medications, and some users became addicted.

One of those medications is OxyContin, which is made by Purdue Pharma. The US firm got clearance to offer the drug for a wider range of problems, and use skyrocketed.

Purdue is most widely blamed for fueling the epidemic, and is one of the defendants in the complex Ohio case. It has been seeking a settlement since filing for bankruptcy.

It and other companies like Johnson & Johnson are now facing an avalanche of legal action led by state attorneys general or local authorities.

The CDC puts the "economic burden" of the opioids crisis at a whopping $78.5 billion a year. That includes the costs of health care, lost productivity and the prison system.

A study published this week by the Society of Actuaries put the total cost for 2015-2018 at $631 billion.

- What is the US government doing? -

The administration of US President Donald Trump designated the opioids epidemic a "public health emergency" in October 2017. That freed up public funds to battle the crisis and improve treatment.

Beyond the obvious federal efforts to combat drug trafficking, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April 2018 launched the HEAL Initiative -- Helping to End Addiction Long-Term.

That project is aimed at pinpointing scientific solutions to the issues of effective pain management. In fiscal 2019, $945 million was devoted to the initiative.

Most US states have been aggressive in their efforts to prosecute drug companies over the crisis.

Short link: https://tipnews.com/u/MTAyOTk1

See also:

Related articles

Life taking 'toll on my health': Philippines' Duterte

Life taking 'toll on my health': Philippines' Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted that life is taking its "toll on my health", as speculation swirls over the 74-year-old's prolonged absences from the public eye.Duterte cut short a trip to Japan last month because he was suffering from "u

Pakistan becomes first country to launch new typhoid vaccine

Pakistan becomes first country to launch new typhoid vaccine

Pakistan has become the first country in the world to introduce a new typhoid vaccine, officials said Friday, as the country grapples with an ongoing outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of the potentially fatal disease.The vaccine, approved by the World Health

Dutch flaunt Brexit booty with EU agency opening

Dutch flaunt Brexit booty with EU agency opening

The Netherlands showed off the spoils of Brexit on Friday as it officially handed over the European Medicines Agency's new building in Amsterdam after the regulator was forced to move from London.The 300-million-euro ($330 million) building -- which boasts fe

US to force hospitals to reveal rates

US to force hospitals to reveal rates

The Trump administration said Friday it would begin forcing US hospitals to publish their prices of care and the discounted deals they reach with insurers from 2021 in a bid to rein in health care costs.The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) propose



HELLO, PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO RATE THIS POST Five key things about fentanyl and America's opioids crisis

Sending comment Close