opioid epidemic

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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.

Mary Meehan

Imagine living and working somewhere designed to fit a couple hundred people. Now picture that same space crammed with twice that number. Madison County, Kentucky, Jailer Doug Thomas doesn’t have to imagine it. He lives it.

“I’m doing all that I can with what I have to work with, which is not a lot,” he said. “Because we’re a 184 bed facility with almost 400 people.”

According to the Madison County jail task force, roughly 80 percent of the people incarcerated there are jailed on charges that somehow relate to addiction. County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor wants to try a different approach.

Survey Finds Teen Use Of Opioids Declining

Dec 17, 2017
Mary Meehan

A survey produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found a rare bit of good news about the opioid crisis: fewer teenagers reported using opioids outside of medical purposes.

The Monitoring the Future Survey 2017 results show a continued trend in decreased misuse of opioids by teens that dates to the early 2000s.

DEA Beefs Up Ohio Valley Opioid Enforcement

Nov 29, 2017

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday enhanced federal enforcement targeting opioids in the Ohio Valley region, including a new Drug Enforcement Administration field division in Louisville.  

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Sessions said the Louisville field division will be the first new DEA division established in 20 years. He said it will have about 90 special agents and 130 task force officers focusing on drug trafficking in the Appalachian region

Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed a lawsuit against opioid maker Endo Pharmaceuticals for pushing a highly addictive drug on doctors in Kentucky and contributing to the opioid crisis. In 2016, more than 190 Kentuckians overdosed on Opana ER — the extended release version of the pain medication manufactured by Endo.

“Endo put its own profits ahead of public health and patient safety,” Beshear said in a press conference on Monday. “And rather than help limit the opioid epidemic by reporting potential diversion through illicit prescribing, as it is obligated to do on under federal and state law, Endo looked the other way.”

White House video

As bad as the opioid epidemic is across the nation, it is even worse here in the Ohio Valley.

Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia collectively have a rate of opioid-related deaths that is more than twice the national average.

Last year 5,306 people died from opioid overdoses in the three states -- 15 deaths a day. That means that 13 percent of all opioid deaths in the nation occurred in a region with just over 5 percent of the country’s population.

Courtesy White House, Office of the First Lady

Many lawmakers from the Ohio Valley region are expected at the White House Thursday as President Donald Trump delivers an address on the opioid crisis.

It is still not clear when the president will unveil a long-awaited emergency declaration on the epidemic. The president called opioid addiction “an emergency” in early August, and a White House spokesperson indicated at the time that "expedited legal review" of an emergency declaration was underway. However, two months have passed without action on the matter.

In an interview Wednesday evening Trump indicated the emergency declaration will come "next week." The president is scheduled to speak on the opioid crisis Thursday afternoon at the White House.

J. Tyler Franklin

Attorney General Andy Beshear walked out of a committee hearing Thursday after Republican lawmakers interrogated him about a settlement the previous attorney general made with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

Beshear called the questioning “grossly political” and accused Republican lawmakers of continuing fights left over from political campaigns.


When health care and law enforcement officials met recently at a health policy forum in Lexington, Kentucky, to share ideas about the opioid crisis, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear listed some groups that have benefited from money won in a 2015 settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.

“We had Freedom House in Louisville and Independence House in Corbin. We had the Chrysalis House in here in Lexington. Hope in the Mountains, that was going to have to shut down, in Prestonsburg,” he said.

The president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says opioid abuse is taking a toll on the state’s economic growth and development. 

David Adkisson says many people looking for work can’t pass a drug test, and many of those who do have jobs are leaving the workforce because of untreated or under-treated addictions.  That has contributed to a low workforce participation rate, according to Adkisson.

"If we were simply at the national average, there would be 165,000 more workers in the Kentucky economy than there are today," stated Adkisson.  "Opioid addiction is one of the contributing factors to that, but it's a significant factor."