Opioids

Why Pennsylvania Counties Are Suing OxyContin Drug Maker

May 22, 2018
Brett Sholtis / Transforming Health

York County Solicitor Glenn Smith knows the county coroner's phone number by heart. He calls often to get the most recent number of drug overdose deaths, a number that increases almost every day. 

"As of today?" said York County Coroner Pam Gay. "Twenty-two confirmed, another 25 suspected... We just had two this morning."

York County has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, with 176 overdose deaths last year. It is one of 17 Pennsylvania counties to sue Purdue Pharmaceuticals and other companies that make prescription opioids.

Tony Talbot / AP

The city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are suing eight pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, alleging the companies trivialized the risk of opioid addiction while overstating the benefits of the drugs.

Andrew Rush / AP

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said a year ago that its many parishes and church buildings could no longer be justified given current finances and clergy shortages.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill that would have created a drug formulary for the state workers’ compensation program.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently renewed the state’s disaster declaration for the opioid crisis, in part to remove barriers to addiction treatment. 

Ted S. Warren / AP

Dry leaf marijuana will soon be available for a growing list of Pennsylvania patients, including those addicted to opioids. State Health Secretary Dr.

Pat Sullivan / AP

A researcher at Duquesne University has developed anti-inflammatory pain medication that could be more effective than current options — while also using far smaller doses.

The "nanomedicine," created by Jelena Janjic, co-director of Duquesne's Chronic Pain Research Consortium and associate professor of pharmaceutics, and colleagues, is able to effectively target specific, affected areas of the body. Common anti-inflammatory drugs are distributed indiscriminately throughout the body via the bloodstream after being ingested.

Dentist Group Puts Teeth In Push To Curb Opioid Painkillers

Mar 26, 2018
Toby Talbot / AP

The American Dental Association wants dentists to drastically cut back on prescribing opioid painkillers.

The association announced a new policy Monday that "essentially says eliminate opioids from your arsenal if at all possible," said Dr. Joseph Crowley, the group's president. The Chicago-based group represents around 161,000 dentists.

The group is also pushing for limiting opioid prescriptions to no more than a week and mandatory education for dentists that encourages using other painkillers.

Toby Talbot / AP

With more than 650 drug fatalities in 2017, Allegheny County broke the record for fatal overdoses set the previous year, which in turn broke the record established in 2015.

Trump Opioid Plan Includes Death Penalty For Traffickers

Mar 19, 2018
Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump's plan to combat opioid drug addiction nationwide calls for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including the death penalty where appropriate under current law, a top administration official said. 

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Acclaimed poet Sheryl St. Germain is a college professor whose son died of a heroin overdose in 2014, after a long struggle with drug abuse. He was 30 years old.

Toby Talbot / AP

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says it is ending a pre-authorization requirement for Medicaid recipients to receive coverage for medication they are prescribed to help treat opioid addiction.

Jeff Roberson / AP, file

Methamphetamines have faded into the background as the opioid epidemic has taken hold of the country with deadly tenacity.

However, in the last couple of years, meth cases have been on the rise in some parts of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The change is one of degrees, said Patrick Trainor, a supervisory special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Philadelphia.

“These drugs have never gone away, but we have noticed an increase in seizures in this region,” he said.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday the federal government will use Pittsburgh-area expertise to step up its fight against opioid-related crimes online.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A memorial wall that includes 22,000 pills — each engraved with the face of someone who died of an opioid overdose — has arrived at the University of Pittsburgh.

The National Safety Council will host an unveiling of the memorial during a private event Monday at the William Pitt Student Union. It will be open to public on Tuesday.

The memorial was initially launched in Chicago in November. It's also due to make stops in Atlanta, Ohio and Washington D.C. later this year.

Philadelphia Wants Safe Injection Sites To Help Opioid Fight

Jan 24, 2018
Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Philadelphia wants to become the first U.S. city to allow supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic, officials announced Tuesday, saying they are seeking outside operators to establish one or more in the city.

Seth Wenig / AP

The state Department of Labor made an economic case for establishing a paid family and medical leave fund in a report issued with nine partner organizations on Wednesday.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Philadelphia has filed a lawsuit against drug companies that make prescription opioids, saying they've created "an unprecedented public health crisis."

First Responders Face Growing, Deadly Risk On Overdose Calls

Jan 13, 2018
Mel Evans / AP

"Welcome back."

It was the first thing Sgt. Giovanni Trello heard when he woke up in the back of an ambulance headed to the hospital.

Matt Rourke / AP

One of Governor Tom Wolf's potential gubernatorial rivals is taking issue with a 90-day emergency declaration he issued in response to mounting opioid overdose deaths.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The online fundraiser "Give Big Pittsburgh" was billed as a natural follow-up to the Pittsburgh Foundation's annual Day of Giving, which provided one-day funding matches to donations benefiting local nonprofits, but mixed messages timed with Giving Tuesday may have contributed to less than stellar returns.

Feds Employ Data-Driven Early Warning System In Opioid Fight

Jan 2, 2018
Keith Srakocic / AP

The pain clinic tucked into the corner of a low-slung suburban strip mall was an open secret.

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second year in a row in 2016, nudged down again by a surge in fatal opioid overdoses, federal officials report Thursday.

"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem, and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it."

Organ Donations From Fatal Drug Overdoses Double

Dec 16, 2017
Allen G. Breed / AP

Charles Grugan's drug addiction took a toll on his family.

They tried to help him, but on Oct. 12, 2011, Grugan 33, overdosed on heroin. He never recovered.

PA Sets New Guidelines In Prescribing Opioids To Kids

Dec 4, 2017
Emma Lee/WHYY

Pennsylvania’s top health official visited the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Friday to introduce new guidelines for prescribing painkillers to kids. It’s one of the state’s most recent efforts to address the growing opioid epidemic.

Carla K. Johnson / AP

 

A series of community discussions and an interactive website featuring the stories of the opioid crisis will launch in Pennsylvania next year as part of a campaign to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction.

Pittsburgh Doctor Charged In 2 Fatal Opioid Overdoses

Dec 1, 2017
Brandon Giesbrecht / flickr

A Pittsburgh area doctor was charged Friday with causing the deaths of two patients by overprescribing opioids, state prosecutors announced.

Andrew Russell / Tribune-Review

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the beleaguered Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

PA Hotline Links Those In Need With Help To Confront Opioid Addiction

Nov 28, 2017
Toby Talbot / AP

One of the most frequent complaints that Jennifer Smith, acting secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, hears from family and friends concerned about loved ones’ opioid abuse is that they don’t know how to access treatment.

“I heard over and over and over again … my child needs treatment, but I have no idea how to get him or her there. I don’t know who to call,’” said Smith last month at a hearing on the state of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.

Following Damaging Reports, PA Congressman Marino Defends His Opioid Law

Nov 10, 2017
Susan Walsh / AP

Last month, The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” ran a damaging story about Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tom Marino, (PA-10), which accused him of ushering a bill through Congress that tied the Drug Enforcement Agency’s hands in their effort to stop distributors from flooding the black market with opioid painkillers.

Whistleblowers in the DEA say the bill has directly interfered with their attempts to stem the nation’s opioid crisis.

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