Audio Astra: The never-ending specter of opioids

Audio Astra: The never-ending specter of opioids

Audio Astra reviews recent audio reporting on Kansas news, including podcasts and radio stories. Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Study Journalism Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

“Empire of Pain”

Patrick Radin Keefe, April 13, 2021

Purdue’s $4.5 billion opioid settlement has been dumped. What now?

The magazine, December 22, 2021

The image is something of a Gothic fantasy: a black snake curling up next to your chair as you sit in the dark. As you wait for the snake to pass, you realize that the shadow on the ground is getting bigger and somehow becoming, impossibly, a darker shade of black. While you wait for her exit through the other door, the snake coils around your seat. You look at the door, hoping to see the tail. But there is no end. The snake, at your peril, continues to multiply.

“Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radin Cave

After listening to “Empire of Pain” An audiobook released last year by New Yorker writer Patrick Radin How, the opioid crisis looks like this: an endless serpentine crisis. The evil zookeeper who pushed the snake into the room was the Sackler family, the brutal and intolerable clan that led Purdue Pharma and other companies.

Keefe’s reports reluctantly push the Sacklers to center stage for smut as the public hears the recitation of company emails, classified internal research and accusations from former Purdue executives. Keefe’s reporting extends back to the first generation of pharma marketing experts so we can determine when the snake entered the room.

Arthur Sackler, the late founder of the family’s medical advertising empire, stars in the beginning of the audiobook, the son of a mujahid from New York. Using a medical certificate clearance, Arthur’s seed companies snooping past FDA regulators meander, stare at congressional investigations and provide the Sackler family tree with untold wealth. We watch in horror as one of these small companies, Purdue Pharma, unleashes “innovations” in pain care that are undermining the lives of millions of Americans. The crisis is expanding so uncontrollably that 2.3 million people in Ohio have a prescription for opioids — about one in five.

The picture of opioids in the book goes way back, beyond the humble American beginnings of the Sackler family, to “thousands of years ago, at the dawn of human history.” “Some have discovered that if you cut a poppy head into slices, it will secrete a milky paste, and this substance has medicinal properties.” Keefe continues, “If a plant seemed to possess magical properties, it was also understood, even in the ancient world, that it carried some danger.” Hearing Sackler’s latest and willful denial of these risks, risks we have understood for millennia, makes Keefe’s writing crazy and lively.

Keefe calculates precisely how guilty one family must be. His precise conclusion, based on research that filled 16 hours of audio, is that the Sackler family isn’t alone in fueling this massive opioid surge. Other companies, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration, contributed. Keefe writes that the Sackler family deserves more blame than anyone else, for the crisis that continues to fester across America.

In Kansas, the crisis is widening, but it is also changing its form. People with opioid use disorder are at increased risk of death from taking fentanyl, a bewilderingly strong synthetic opioid. Celia Jubis Jepsen of the new Kansas Service I mentioned Monday Concerning “the growing practice of increasing abuse of other fentanyl drugs – to increase addiction and keep buyers coming back for more – is leading to a sharp increase in fatal overdoses across Kansas and the United States.”

Last fall in Shawnee, 16-year-old Cooper Davis died after taking a pill full of fentanyl. Mom Cooper, Libby, Fox 4 News said, “We tried to convince him that he wouldn’t always know what was being given to him, that there were a lot of unknowns out there and that what he was doing was dangerous.”

Cooper’s death, Bravely described publicly by his familyIt is one of the few opioid deaths that has been publicly acknowledged. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tally indicates that more than 500 Kansas died from drug overdoses in Kansas last year. Clearly, opioid overdoses are common in that statistic.

This is the challenge in writing or discussing the opioid epidemic. By tracking the increasing use of fentanyl, we’re shifting the focus away from the sackler. Referring to the DEA’s advice on how to spot counterfeit pills, we’re forgetting about the sacklers. The reporting of the epidemic cannot be continually traced back to damage, right from the start, by the Sacklers.

While listening to “Empire of Pain,” I watched the time left in the audiobook slowly disappear, worried about justice for billionaires. As I pursued a settlement that would wipe out their family’s fortunes, I was certain that the Sacklers’ exorbitant lawyers, lobbyists, and bankruptcy maneuvers would save them.

Keefe’s work solidifies this connection with each chapter. While listening to “Empire of Pain,” I watched the time left in the audiobook slowly disappear, worried about justice for billionaires. As I worked through a settlement that would wipe out their family’s fortunes, I was sure that the Sacklers’ exorbitant lawyers, lobbyists, and bankruptcy maneuvers would save them.

last month, however, A federal judge overturned in New York Settlement between Purdue Pharma and the tangles between municipalities, hospitals, pharmacies and individuals who have sued. Podcast “Journal”, of The Wall Street Journal, enlists Jonathan Rundles, a reporter specializing in bankruptcy cases, to put the latest ruling in context.

“I’ve covered bankruptcies since 2015,” Randles said. “I can’t think of another situation where an approved bankruptcy settlement like this, an approved reorganization plan, is voided on appeal.”

The original settlement, which Keefe challenges in his book, would have largely protected the Sackler family. This kind of protection would seem like a fair deal to reward the family’s $4.5 billion. However, The Journal explains that the Sackler family raided $10 billion from the company, primarily on the eve of the bankruptcy lawsuit, to enrich themselves.

Ryan Hampton, a man who traces a nightmare from opioid dependence to a single prescription for oxycontin, explains in the podcast how an inverted settlement can represent greater penalties for Sacklers, but also pose a risk to plaintiffs like him.

“It gave me a sense of hope that Sackler might one day see his day in court, but it gave me a tremendous amount of anxiety, because with Judge McMahon’s decision, it means this plan needs to be reworked,” Hampton said.

These reworks can sinisterly leave victims with less than the original settlement.

In his book, Keefe cites Martin Booth’s observation, in his book Opium: A History, that when it comes to products derived from the opium poppy, history repeats itself. This means that when we finally get the snake out of our house, it will likely come back in another form.

Guiding this serpent will be another menacing shepherd, the agonizing resurrection of the Sackler family, who looks to profit from a new generation of infernal addiction.

What did we miss? email [email protected] Let us know about an audio program in Kansas that would be interesting to Audio Astra readers.

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