Regional trends in overdose deaths reveal multiple opioid epidemics

The United States is suffering from several different simultaneous opioid epidemics, rather than just a single crisis, according to an academic study of deaths caused by drug overdoses.

David Peters, an associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University, co-authored the study, which appeared in the academic journal Rural Sociology. Peters and his co-authors conducted a county-level analysis of death certificates from across the country that noted opioid overdoses as the cause of death. The study found regional differences in the kind of opioids that cause the most overdose deaths, and these differences should lead to policymakers considering varying strategies to address the epidemics, Peters said.

“Our results show that it’s more helpful to think of the problem as several epidemics occurring at the same time rather than just one,” Peters said. “And they occur in different regions of the country, so there’s no single policy response that’s going to address all of these epidemics. There needs to be multiple sets of policies to address these distinct challenges.”

Full story at Science Daily

Judge Reduces Johnson & Johnson Opioid Verdict by More Than $100 Million

A judge in Oklahoma has reduced a verdict against opioid maker Johnson & Johnson by more than $100 million, NPR reports.

In August, state court Judge Thad Balkman ordered the company to pay $572 million over its role in Oklahoma’s opioid crisis. On Friday, Balkman cut that amount to $465 million. He acknowledged making a mathematical error in calculating the original amount. He had set aside $107.6 million to support addiction treatment programs for babies exposed to opioids in the womb, but had meant to set aside $107,600.

Full story at Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

For Rural Patients, Opioid Treatment Centers Often Too Far Away

Methadone is often used in the fight against opioid addiction, but long travel times in rural areas may be hampering efforts to get more people treated, a new study finds.

If methadone for opioid addiction was available in primary care clinics, more people would have better access to treatment, researchers suggest.

In the United States, methadone is only available at clinics certified by the federal government as Opioid Treatment Programs, or OTPs. This restriction, along with state and local laws, limits the number of clinics that offer methadone for opioid addiction.

Full story at HealthDay

OxyContin Maker Files for Bankruptcy

Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the opioid painkiller OxyContin, has filed for bankruptcy, CNN reports.

The filing is part of the company’s plan to settle litigation involving more than 2,000 cases brought by states, counties, municipalities and Native American governments. The plaintiffs in those cases say Purdue Pharma fueled the opioid epidemic. Under the settlement, the company will provide more than $10 billion in funding to address the opioid crisis.

Purdue also plans to create a company called NewCo, which will produce medicines to reverse overdoses, and will continue to develop an over-the-counter version of naloxone at little to no cost to communities across the country, according to a company statement.

Full story at Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Preference for fentanyl higher among young, white, frequent opioid users

A minority of people who use illicit opioids indicated a preference for fentanyl, the super-potent synthetic opioid that accounts for much of the recent rise in U.S. overdose deaths, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study, based on surveys of 308 people who use opioids in Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, found that 27 percent indicated a preference for opioids containing fentanyl, and that people who prefer fentanyl are more likely to be younger, white, and daily users. The median age of those who prefer fentanyl was 38 years compared to 45 years for those who don’t prefer fentanyl. Fifty-nine percent of fentanyl preferers identified as non-Hispanic white, compared to only 29 percent among the non-preferers.

The study, published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Independence, is thought to be the first to characterize fentanyl-preferring opioid users.

Full story at Science Daily