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Kentucky is taking steps to counteract one of the fastest growing hepatitis C infection rates in the nation.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can lead to liver infection if untreated. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, and jaundice.

It’s most commonly spread when people share needles or other equipment to inject drugs.

A law that went into effect July 1 made Kentucky the first state to require health care providers to test pregnant women for the virus.

Unsealed Lawsuit in Tennessee: Opioid Firm Placed Profits Over People

Jul 6, 2018
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A newly unsealed lawsuit by Tennessee's attorney general says the maker of the world's top-selling painkiller directed its salesforce to target the highest prescribers, many with limited or no pain management background or training.

Citing the public's right to know, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said Thursday that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has dropped its previous efforts to shield details of the 274-page lawsuit in state court. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Knoxville News Sentinel had also requested that the lawsuit's records become public.

Alexandria Santa Barbara is a 39-year-old mother of three from a working-class suburb of Philadelphia.

The addiction story for Santa Barbara, who goes by the name Alexis, follows a familiar course: She had been prescribed Percocet years ago to treat back pain. When the drug became unavailable, she turned to heroin. And she became hooked — not long after getting laid off from her job at a local deli.

Across the street from her, her neighbor, identified just as "J.M." in court papers, was also in the grip of an opioid addiction.

The past two years have been a time of reckoning for pharmaceutical manufacturers over their role in promoting opioid drugs that have fed a national epidemic.

WFPL

A website launched earlier this year is helping Kentucky get a better understanding of the kinds of addiction treatment facilities and programs needed by its residents.

FindHelpNowKY.org is a search engine that can be used by those with substance abuse disorders, their family members, and medical professionals.

It’s been used by an estimated 6,000 Kentuckians since it launched January 1, and tracks 181 providers and 446 facilities across the state that serve those with addiction issues.

Principal Mary Ann Hale dreads weekends.

By the time Fridays roll around, 74-year-old Hale, a principal at West Elementary School in McArthur, Ohio, is overcome with worry, wondering whether her students will survive the couple of days away from school.

Too many children in this part of Ohio's Appalachian country live in unstable homes with a parent facing addiction. For years, the community has struggled with opioids. Ohio had the second-highest number of drug overdose deaths per capita in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For most of her childhood, growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania, Kelly Zimmerman felt alone and anxious.

She despaired when her mother was depressed or working late shifts; when her parents fought nonstop; when her friends wanted to come over, and she felt too ashamed to let them see her home's buckling floor, the lack of running water.

Kelly tried to shut out those feelings, and when she was 18, a boyfriend offered her an opioid painkiller — Percocet.

Her anxiety dissolved, at least for a little while.

51fifty at the English language Wikipedia

Legislators grilled representatives from five major opioid distributors Tuesday on how painkillers flooded West Virginia under their watch.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing came as part of an investigation into why Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith failed to report suspiciously large orders of opioid painkillers at the beginning of the addiction crisis.

A few months ago, Kourtnaye Sturgeon helped save someone's life. She was driving in downtown Indianapolis when she saw people gathered around a car on the side of the road. Sturgeon pulled over and a man told her there was nothing she could do: Two men had overdosed on opioids and appeared to be dead.

"I kind of recall saying, 'No man, I've got Narcan,' " she says, referring to the brand- name version of the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone. "Which sounds so silly, but I'm pretty sure that's what came out."

WFPL

A new poll shows one in four Kentuckians knows someone who has abused prescription pain drugs.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll also showed a decrease in the number of adults in the commonwealth who were prescribed pain pills. In 2011, about half of adults had a pain pill prescription. The poll released this week shows that’s declined to one in three adults.

Beshear Sues Drugmaker For Deceptive Marketing Of Opioids

Apr 18, 2018
Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general has filed a fifth lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company for deceptive marketing of opioid-based painkillers.

Andy Beshear said he has filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and two of its subsidiaries.

Beshear said the companies claimed their opioid drugs were “rarely addictive” when used for chronic pain. He said the companies violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the Kentucky Medicaid and Kentucky Assistance Program fraud statutes.

Editor's note: Since this story was first posted, we have received word that Destini Johnson is regaining consciousness and is out of intensive care.

Last August, Destini Johnson practically danced out of jail, after landing there for two months on drug charges. She bubbled with excitement about her new freedom and returning home to her parents in Muncie, Ind. She even talked about plans to find a job.

As opioid-related deaths have continued to climb, naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses, has become an important part of the public health response.

When people overdosing struggle to breathe, naloxone can restore normal breathing and save their lives. But the drug has to be given quickly.

On Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that encouraged more people to routinely carry naloxone.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Nearly one in three recent arrests by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration related to excessive opioid distribution by prescribers and pharmacies took place in Kentucky. The actions were part of a recent 45-day “surge” announced here by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in late January.

Diversion investigators, special agents, intelligence research specialists and task force officers focused efforts on sources that “dispensed disproportionately large amounts of drugs,” according to a Department of Justice news release. The surge spanned February and March.

Velva Poole has spent about 20 years as a social worker, mostly in Louisville, Ky. She's seen people ravaged by methamphetamines and cocaine; now it's mostly opioids. Most of her clients are parents who have lost custody of their children because of drug use. Poole remembers one mom in particular.

"She had her kids removed the first time for cocaine. And then she had actually gotten them back," she says. But three months later, the mother relapsed and overdosed on heroin.

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