KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Opioid Deaths Surging As Crisis Continues To Rage On

WTOP's series "Hooked On Heroin: Deadlier Than Ever" examines the drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic in the Washington, D.C. area.

WTOP: Heart-Stopping: Death Toll Skyrockets As Designer Opioids Infiltrate Local Drug Trade
The crisis has reached a boiling point in the region, as a new breed of designer opioids has infiltrated the region’s drug market. As the deaths continue to be tallied, at least 1,600 people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia died from heroin or opioid overdoses in 2016, and that’s just a preliminary figure. Several months of data from last year have yet to be published. (Forzato, 1/9)

WTOP: The Octopus From Hell: How Pain-Management Practice Contributes To Heroin Epidemic
Experts say the over-prescribing of opioids in the last 15 years has contributed to the nation’s current heroin epidemic — a slippery slope from recovering patient to recovering addict. Four out of five heroin addicts first became addicted to painkillers, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says. New CDC guidelines advise doctors to prescribe fewer painkillers for acute pain. And some physicians have even been arrested for selling massive quantities of opioids to drug users. So is it the doctors’ fault? (Forzato, 1/10)

In other news on the substance abuse crisis —

Columbus Dispatch: Cardinal Health To Pay $20 Million To Settle Painkillers Suit 
Cardinal Health will pay $20 million in a previously announced settlement with the state of West Virginia in a 2012 lawsuit alleging that Cardinal failed to properly oversee and report a surge in orders of addictive painkillers. The failure took place over a five-year period from 2007 to 2012 and contributed to a rise in the opiate crisis, the state said in its suit against Cardinal and several other drug distributors. (Matzer Rose, 1/9)

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