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Jury Finds Pharmacy Chains Helping Fuel Opioid Epidemic, How Fentanyl and Meth Exploded Across the Country, and Study Shows Acetaminophen Increases Risk-Taking
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
Pharmacy chains including CVS helped fuel opioid epidemic, U.S. jury finds
A federal judge recently found that pharmacy chain operators CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart helped fuel an opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties that resulted in an oversupply of painkillers and the diversion of those opioids to the black market.
Mark Lanier, a lawyer for Ohio's Lake and Trumbull counties, called the verdict a "landmark decision" that paved the way for them to each seek more than $1 billion from the companies to help address the deadly epidemic's toll in their communities.
The trial to determine the amount to be paid by the corporations will be held in April or May.
Over 3,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed nationally against drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, culminating with many of the companies agreeing to proposed global settlements.
How fentanyl and meth exploded nationwide and led to more mental illness, homelessness, and deaths
The CDC recently released figures stating overdose deaths surpassed 100,000 in America for the first time, and that most deaths were from fentanyl. The drug, once only found in hospitals, is now basically everywhere.
Meth is also widespread and cheap, with the chemicals needed to make it easy to access. Journalist and author of “The Least of Us: Try Tales of American and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth,” Sam Quinones, says that it is a major reason why so many people are living in the streets in LA. He also says it is stronger than ever, causing people to hallucinate.
Quinones explained his book is about the Mexican trafficking world, and how it became the lead driver of pain pills and pushed America’s epidemic of drug addiction into the “synthetic era.” This means that street drugs are now being made in laboratories rather than using plants. These synthetic drugs are more potent and dangerous than what was previously on the streets.
The book details a story about a Mexican-born and San Diego-raised underground chemist named Ricardo Valdez-Torres, one of the first people to introduce Mexican drug traffickers to fentanyl. He claimed that the benefit of the drug is that “it was very cheap to make, very easy to make, and extraordinarily potent, and therefore enormously profitable.”
Quinones says one reason traffickers use fentanyl is that it can be used like salt in food; a sprinkling of it would boost a drug’s potency. Adding it to other drugs like cocaine and meth leads users to become opioid addicts who increase their frequency of purchasing to avoid withdrawal.
The Most Common Pain Relief Drug in The World Induces Risky Behavior, Study Finds
A study in 2020 found that acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, and sold widely under the brand names Tylenol and Panadol, increases risk-taking when consumed.
As nearly one quarter of the US population takes acetaminophen each week, the findings can have important effects on society. The study shows that the drug’s effect on pain is also extended to various psychological processes, lowering people's receptivity to hurt feelings, experiencing reduced empathy, and even blunting cognitive functions.
The study also suggests that taking acetaminophen affects people's ability to perceive and evaluate risks. While the effects might be slight, these finds are especially important due to the rate at which it is consumed in the public, and because the ingredient is found in over 600 different over-the-counter and prescription medicines.
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