Tag Archives: Billions

Drug makers flooded US with billions of opioid pills as epidemic surged, data shows

Drug makers flooded US with billions of opioid pills as epidemic surged, data showsStatistics are a blow to country’s biggest pharmaceuticals that paid millions of dollars in out of court settlementsPurdue sold $ 3bn of its high-strength branded drug, OxyContin, which in 2010, was about one-third of the opioid market by value at its peak. Photograph: Toby Talbot/APDrug makers and distributors flooded the US with more than 75bn opioid pills in the crucial years when the country’s epidemic of painkiller addiction and deaths surged to record levels, according to previously secret data released by an American court.The publication of the Drug Enforcement Administration statistics is a blow to some of the country’s biggest pharmaceutical firms that have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in out of court settlements in part to keep sealed evidence that they profiteered from escalating demand for opioids even as public health officials were declaring an epidemic.The database covers 2006 to 2012 when opioid prescriptions reached a peak of 282m a year, enough to supply every American adult with a month’s worth of pills. By then, annual sales of narcotic painkillers had surged past $ 8bn.US district judge Dan Polster, in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, is hearing about 2,000 civil cases brought by cities and counties coast-to-coast against opioid makers and distributors, wrapped into a giant case known as a multi-district litigation.He ordered the release of the data following a year-long legal battle by newspaper companies the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, the state worst hit by the opioid epidemic, and the Washington Post.Deliveries of the two most common opioids, hydrocodone and oxycodone, escalated by more than 50% in the years covered by the database, to 12.6bn pills in 2012 alone, an analysis of the DEA numbers by the Washington Post found.By then the federal agency the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had declared a public health crisis because of the surging death toll from overdoses. Some of the largest increases in sales were to parts of the country already devastated by opioids.Nearly nine out of 10 of the pills were manufactured by subsidiaries of three pharmaceutical multinationals – Mallinckrodt, Endo and Actavis, since renamed Allergan.These companies may not be household names but the pills they sold ardently, often allegedly inappropriately for treatment of chronic pain and while downplaying the risks of addiction, infiltrated communities all across the US in the last two decades.Mallinckrodt sold nearly 29bn opioids in the six years to 2012, taking 38% of the US market. Actavis was not far behind while Endo sold 11bn opioid tablets. Among Endo’s drugs was a high-strength opioid, Opana, that it was forced to pull from the market because it was killing so many people.Meanwhile Purdue Pharma is alleged to have played a leading role in driving the mass prescribing that unleashed the epidemic by changing the practice and culture of pain treatment. It was the fourth-largest manufacturer but with a much smaller proportion of the market at about 3%t.However, the volume of sales does not necessarily reflect the impact of individual drugs on the epidemic. Many of the more common painkillers were lower-strength opioids which helped create dependency and addiction but did not pose the same risk of overdose as stronger but less widely prescribed narcotics.Purdue sold $ 3bn of its high-strength branded drug, OxyContin, in 2010, about one-third of the opioid market by value at its peak.The pill consists of oxycodone, a powerful opioid derived from the opium poppy and which is stronger than morphine. The drug has been widely blamed for a surge in overdose deaths through the 2000s.All of the companies are targets of multiple lawsuits accusing them of driving up opioid sales with false claims about the safety and effectiveness of their drugs as are the members of the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma.The newly released DEA data will bolster the plaintiffs’ claim that responsibility for the epidemic runs wide across the drug industry with manufacturers intent on grabbing as large a part of the opioid market as possible with little regard for the unfolding human tragedy.The opioid makers have denied wrongdoing and, among other things, sought to place blame for the epidemic on doctors overprescribing drugs. But Purdue has previously been hit with a $ 600m fine for a criminal conviction over its marketing of opioids, and in March the company agreed to pay $ 270m to settle a civil suit by the state of Oklahoma. Two years ago, Mallinckrodt paid a $ 35m settlement with the justice department over its opioid deliveries.County-by-county data shows that sales of opioids were often focused on areas most blighted by the epidemic, including some of the poorest parts of Appalachia. At one point, the highest per capita deliveries were to rural Mingo county, West Virginia, where “pill mills” and pharmacies were raking in money by churning out prescriptions without question to anyone who paid cash. The practice drew caravans of drug users from hundreds of miles away.Large numbers of the opioids delivered to Mingo county were by the country’s biggest drug distributor, McKesson Corporation. The Washington Post said the DEA data showed that McKesson and five other companies, including the pharmaceutical chains Walgreens, CVS and Walmart, were responsible for the bulk of painkiller deliveries across the US.McKesson, which is listed seventh in the Fortune 500 paid a record $ 150m fine two years ago to settle federal accusations that it was making suspiciously large deliveries of opioids to places where there could not be a legitimate demand for so many pills.It was also among companies that paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits by West Virginia’s attorney general that they flooded his state with opioids.A former head of the DEA division responsible for monitoring prescription drug distribution, Joe Rannazzisi, has previously told the Guardian that he attempted to launch criminal prosecutions against McKesson and other distributors but he ran into the power of the industry’s political lobbying and was blocked by justice department officials.



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Trump news: President demands billions for border wall as Pelosi says he 'isn't worth' impeaching

Trump news: President demands billions for border wall as Pelosi says he 'isn't worth' impeachingDonald Trump will reportedly ask Congress for $ 8.6bn (£6.6bn) to build his southern border wall on Monday under proposals for his 2020 fiscal budget, a $ 3bn (£2.3bn) increase on his last estimate for the job. The White House is proposing $ 2.7trn (£2trn) in spending cuts for the year beginning 1 October, a reduction of 5 percent across all non-defence agencies while military funding is boosted to $ 750bn (£577bn). Senior Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were quick to shoot down the proposals, saying the president had “hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos” with the recent 35-day government shutdown and warning: “Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government.



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President Trump Declares Emergency to Get Billions for Border Wall

President Trump Declares Emergency to Get Billions for Border WallPresident Trump declared a national emergency in Friday morning remarks from the Rose Garden at the White House



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PG&E files for bankruptcy amid California wildfire lawsuits, citing billions in claims

PG&E files for bankruptcy amid California wildfire lawsuits, citing billions in claimsThe utility filed bankruptcy documents despite investigators determining last week that its equipment was not to blame for a 2017 fire that killed 22.



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Venezuela crisis: US announces billions in sanctions as White House says military options still 'on the table'

Venezuela crisis: US announces billions in sanctions as White House says military options still 'on the table'The White House announced new sanctions against Venezuela on Monday, warning the United States would immediately block at least $ 7bn in assets held offshore by Nicolas Maduro and his top officials. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Security Adviser John Bolton joined White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a press conference on Monday to announce the new sanctions, which they said had been kept secret prior to the announcement. In making the sanctions public, the White House warned “all options are on the table” when it comes to dealing with the ongoing conflict in Venezuela.



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California Wildfires Are Causing Billions in Damage. Who Will Pay?

California Wildfires Are Causing Billions in Damage. Who Will Pay?The law hasn't caught up to the scientific reality when it comes time to to recoup the billions in damage caused by the fire.



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Trump's Wall Could Run Up Billions In Unforeseen Costs, Watchdog Report Warns

Trump's Wall Could Run Up Billions In Unforeseen Costs, Watchdog Report WarnsPresident Donald Trump's proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border could cost



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Antarctica is losing billions of tons of ice each year, sharply boosting sea levels

Antarctica is losing billions of tons of ice each year, sharply boosting sea levelsEarth-orbiting satellites are watching Antarctica thaw.  Eighty scientists from over 40 earth sciences agencies, including NASA and the European Space Agency, used satellite data from between 1992 to 2017 to find that Antarctica has lost three trillion tons of ice to the oceans over this 25-year period. Their research, published Wednesday in the journal
Nature, confirms a troubling trend, as much of the world's fresh water is frozen away in Antarctica. It's accelerating melt will likely play a primary role in swelling Earth's oceans two or three feet higher this century, or perhaps as much as six feet. SEE ALSO: Arctic sea ice is loaded with plastic litter from cigarettes and paint The most vulnerable masses of ice are in West Antartica, where NASA has already witnessed an accelerating melt. "They're melting like gangbusters," Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in an April interview. "These are massive rivers of ice that are dumping just huge amounts of ice into the oceans." Image: imbie/Planetary VisionsPerhaps most worrying, said Willis, is that this melting is unprecedented. Scientists are watching this thawing for the first time. They can see the melt is already accelerating — and it's unknown what's exactly to come. "We have long suspected that changes in Earth’s climate will affect the polar ice sheets," Andrew Shepherd, a climate scientist and one of the study's lead authors, said in a statement.   "Thanks to the satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence," said Shepherd. "According to our analysis, there has been a steep increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years."  Over this 25-year period, scientists measured around 7 and a half millimeters of sea level rise from the ice-clad continent. This might not seem like a lot, Robin Bell, a marine geologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said over email. But, the more recent rapid loses in Antarctic ice "indicates Antarctica can change faster than we thought," said Bell. In fact, 40 percent of the total rise, or about 3 millimeters, came in the last 5 years. That's when things really started to change. Until 2012, the study's researchers found that Antarctica had been shedding 84 billion tons of ice into the sea each year, incrementally boosting sea levels by around 0.2 millimeters annually.  But beginning in 2012, Antarctica began to lose nearly 240 billion tons per year, largely from two giant West Antarctic glaciers, Pine Island and Thwaites.   The West Antarctic ice is particularly vulnerable because these massive ice sheets sit over the ocean, and even slightly warmer ocean waters can eat away at them from the bottom.  The locations of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which alone have enough ice to raise sea levels by 4 feet, says NASA.Image: Nasa"The largest mass loss is observed where relatively warm ocean waters are melting floating ice shelves from below," Steve Rintoul, a study coauthor and physical oceanographer from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center, in Australia, said in a statement.  These masses of ice, which sit on the edge of the continent, act as a plug, holding the continent's thick sheets of heavy ice back.  "As the ice shelves thin and weaken, they provide less resistance to ice flow from the continent to the sea," explained Rintoul. "This increases the rate of mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet and therefore the rate of sea level rise." This leads to a foreboding future. Once these melting ice sheets on the coast go, nothing is left to hold West Antartica's ice back. And as the authors note, "The ice sheets of Antarctica hold enough water to raise global sea level by 58 meters." Certainly, no one is suggesting this will all dump into ocean — not nearly. But only an insignificant amount needs to melt into the sea for coastal dwellers, where billions reside and many more are expected to live, to be impacted by rising seas, flooding, and surges of stormwater. Around 40 percent of Americans, for example, live directly on the shoreline.  To better grasp exactly how much ice is lost each year — and more critically, how fast these losses are accelerating — space agencies will continue to peer onto the thawing continent. And down on Earth, scientists will even depend on seals, fitted with data-collecting devices, to dive under this melting ice.  WATCH: Ever wonder how the universe might end?



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Here's How Many Billions America's Richest Would Save On Estate Tax Repeal

Here's How Many Billions America's Richest Would Save On Estate Tax RepealMother Jones magazine and the progressive organization Americans for Tax Fairness have taken a look at the more lavish of the House and Senate measures to cut taxes for the richest people in America ― a mammoth break on estate taxes.



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Trump To Cut Off Billions In Key Obamacare Payments To Insurers

Trump To Cut Off Billions In Key Obamacare Payments To InsurersPresident Donald Trump plans to halt payments to health insurance companies serving the poorest customers on the Obamacare exchanges, the White House announced Thursday.



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