opioid epidemic

Public Domain

Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed another lawsuit against a drug manufacturer, accusing a company that makes morphine and codeine of using deceptive marketing to promote painkillers that fueled the drug addiction epidemic in Kentucky.

In a news conference on Thursday, Beshear said that St. Louis pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt underplayed the risk of addiction in order to promote its opioid products.

“Mallinckrodt sold and promoted their opioids by falsely claiming that their drugs could be taken in higher doses without disclosing the additional risk of addiction,” Beshear said.

Aaron Payne

Meredith Jensen is doing some gardening on a sunny day in a secluded part of Athens, Ohio.

“I’m working on our pollinator garden beds,” she said. “Which are a bunch of fun flowers that’ll help attract butterflies, bumble bees, you name it.”

Her partner Jamie Betit pushes a full wheel barrow to fill the other raised beds.

“We’ve got horse and goat compost here that’s packed full of nutrients, topsoil and ash,” he said.


Kentucky Law Enforcement Magazine

Kentucky’s new Commissioner for the Department of Criminal Justice Training says he’s focused on preparing new and future law enforcement officers to safely deal with the opioid crisis. Payne said officers have to be careful when handling drugs such as fentanyl because they can become ill if their skin comes in contact with the substance.

“Nowadays that mistake can kill you because of things like fentanyl. So there’s all kinds of dangers, new dangers, because of drugs that we have to prepare these young people for and that’s sad,” he said.

Kentucky Seeks Relief As Autopsy Requests Surge

Apr 30, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

As the opioid epidemic rages across Appalachia, one grim consequence has played out in Kentucky’s medical examiner’s office: A staggering increase in autopsy requests.

Autopsy requests for overdose deaths have jumped more than 26 percent since 2013, part of an overall 18 percent increase of autopsy requests statewide. The increase has coincided with a 39 percent increase in drug overdose deaths during that same time.

The increase has overwhelmed the State Medical Examiner’s Office, which consists of nine doctors for the entire state. And it comes amid a national shortage of forensic pathologists that makes it difficult to hire and retain qualified people.

Lisa Gillespie

Kentucky employers and addiction treatment providers are throwing their weight behind Senator Mitch McConnell’s opioid bill introduced last week in the U.S. Senate.

Known as the CAREER Act, McConnell’s bill would funnel millions of dollars into the state to help people with opioid addictions obtain jobs and safe housing.

McConnell took part in discussions about the opioid crisis in Louisville Monday.

Under the bill, 10 states with the highest rates of drug overdoses, which would include Kentucky, would get funding for five years starting in 2019. Scott Hesseltine, vice president of addiction services at addiction and mental health service provider Centerstone, said jobs and housing are common challenges for people finishing inpatient recovery programs.

Wikimedia Commons

A Hepatitis A outbreak growing in the Louisville area since last summer reached a new peak recently with a travel advisory from Indiana health officials. They told Hoosiers heading to Kentucky to get a Hep A vaccine.

Soon, Kentucky’s Acting Commissioner for Public Health Dr. Jeffrey Howard was pushing back.

“Let me say that it IS safe to travel to Kentucky, and it IS safe to attend the Kentucky Derby,” Howard said via the state’s official YouTube channel.


Becca Schimmel

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has introduced a bill aimed at addressing the impact the opioid epidemic is having on the nation’s workforce.

The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery through Effective Employment and Reentry, or CAREER Act, creates a pilot program focused on the states most devastated by substance abuse. The legislation encourages local businesses and treatment groups to form partnerships. McConnell said having stable employment is about more than a paycheck and supporting a family.

office of the Surgeon General

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams threw his support behind syringe exchange services as an important tool to address the Ohio Valley’s high risk of needle-borne disease associated with the opioid epidemic.

Adams visited Florence, in northern Kentucky, for an event to encourage more people to get trained to administer the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. Dressed in a full, dark uniform with gold stripes on his sleeves, Adams demonstrated his technique with the potentially life-saving nasal spray.

“Let’s show them how this works,” he told a crowd of health officials and media. 


Health care providers in Kentucky have a new tool to gauge how their prescribing patterns compare with their peers.  The state has launched a Prescriber Report Card that’s aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse.

The individualized reports are an enhancement to the state’s KASPER program-Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting.  KASPER shows all prescriptions for an individual over a specified time period, the prescriber, and the dispenser.

Public Domain

Kentucky’s attorney general is taking another opioid distributor to court.  Andy Beshear has now filed four lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies which he says are responsible for an influx of addictive painkillers into the state. 

In a news conference on Thursday, Beshear announced that he is suing AmerisourceBergen for what he alleges are deceptive business practices that have flooded the commonwealth with opioids.  In the lawsuit filed in Floyd Circuit Court, Beshear accuses the company of violating laws that require pharmaceutical companies to notify law enforcement of suspiciously large volumes of opioids coming into the state.

Alexandra Kanik

Health officials in the Ohio Valley are investigating outbreaks of disease associated with needle drug use in what is emerging as a new public health threat from the region’s profound opioid addiction crisis.

In northern Kentucky the health department is tracking a cluster of 43 recent HIV cases, about half of which are related to needle drug use. In West Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a report on 40 new HIV cases diagnosed in 2017 in 15 mostly rural counties.


J. Tyler Franklin

After months of back and forth between Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear on how to move forward with lawsuits against opioid distributors and manufacturers, both sides are accusing the other of stalling the process.

It began last summer when Beshear announced he would sue Endo Pharmaceuticals and McKesson Corporation for their role in the opioid epidemic. 

Trump Takes Enforcement Approach To Opioid Crisis

Jan 31, 2018
c-span video

President Donald Trump addressed the opioid crisis affecting the Ohio Valley region in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge,” he said. “My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

But with few specifics and little money so far to carry out  the president’s plans, the public can only go off of what those in his administration have said. And that indicates an approach emphasizing law enforcement rather than funding for treatment.


Becca Schimmel

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing San Francisco-based opioid distributor McKesson Corporation for allegedly “flooding” the commonwealth with opioids.

The lawsuit was filed in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday.

“McKesson had a duty to report when it ships large or suspicious amounts of opioids to a state or region,” Beshear said during a news conference Monday. “They knew that their shipments to Kentucky were excessive, even grossly excessive. But they simply sent them anyways and didn’t notify the authorities.

White House

Donald Trump told supporters on the campaign trail his plan to combat the opioid crisis. It included stopping the flow of drugs into the country, increase the penalties for drug trafficking, and make treatment more accessible.

“We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need,” then-candidate Trump said.

In the first year of his presidency, that plan has developed partially due to the influence of people working on solutions to the epidemic in the Ohio Valley region. But as the one-year mark for the Trump administration approaches, public health officials in the region offer a mixed view of the president’s action.

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