Brian Mann

Johnson & Johnson is drawing criticism after using a controversial bankruptcy maneuver to block roughly 38,000 lawsuits linked to claims that its talc baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos.

The health products giant used a quirk of Texas state law to spin off a new company called LTL, then dumped all its asbestos-related liabilities — including the avalanche of lawsuits — into the new firm.

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About 46,000 public employees in New York City still are not vaccinated - many of them first responders. And city officials now say they have just 10 days to get the shots.

Here's NPR's Brian Mann.

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On Monday in a federal courtroom in Cleveland, Ohio, the nation's legal reckoning over the opioid crisis shifts to four name-brand pharmacy chains: CVS, Giant Eagle, Walgreens, and Walmart.

The companies say they did nothing wrong in the way they dispensed highly addictive pain pills. But the jury trial now getting underway could expose them to billion of dollars in liability and huge risk to their reputations.

Critics say they were reckless in the way they dispensed opioid pain pills, ignoring red flags as more and more people became addicted.

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Updated September 27, 2021 at 3:51 PM ET

In its first public safety alert in six years, the Drug Enforcement Administration is warning about a dramatic increase in fake prescription drugs being sold on the black market containing a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

Updated September 29, 2021 at 11:18 AM ET

I set out on the kind of leaf-peeping trip you take when you want solitude with your fall color. That means driving miles of dirt roads through New York's Adirondack Mountains to reach Quebec Brook, a winding boreal river in the middle of nowhere.

My canoe is a small, ultralight boat designed for this kind of wilderness paddling. That's good because the river is hard to navigate, winding through alder thickets, taking me into a maze of winding marsh.

When Winnie White Tail convened a new session of inpatient substance use treatment last month for members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, she found that roughly half her clients were struggling with methamphetamine addiction.

"It's readily available, it's easy to get," White Tail says. She's a Cheyenne tribal member herself and runs the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center in Clinton, Okla.

Updated September 1, 2021 at 7:33 PM ET

Members of the Sackler family who are at the center of the nation's deadly opioid crisis have won sweeping immunity from opioid lawsuits linked to their privately owned company Purdue Pharma and its OxyContin medication.

Federal Judge Robert Drain approved a bankruptcy settlement on Wednesday that grants the Sacklers "global peace" from any liability for the opioid epidemic.

Updated August 31, 2021 at 4:14 PM ET

Purdue Pharma launched a behind-the-scenes effort in recent days aimed at discouraging the Justice Department from appealing a pending multibillion-dollar bankruptcy settlement for the OxyContin-maker.

NPR acquired an early draft of a letter distributed by the drug company to groups supportive of the bankruptcy deal.

A federal bankruptcy judge says he'll rule Friday on the fate of Purdue Pharma and its owners, members of the Sackler family, who are at the center of a national reckoning over the deadly opioid epidemic.

Judge Robert Drain signaled he is likely to approve the reorganization plan for the makers of OxyContin.

But he also demanded last-minute changes limiting legal immunities granted under the deal to the Sacklers and their associates.

Buried at the bottom of reams of legal documents filed as part of the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case is a single-spaced list that goes on for more than a dozen pages.

It details hundreds of individuals, companies, trusts and other organizations, including financial advisers, public relations firms, law firms, lobbyists, drugmakers and laboratories.

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Bankruptcy proceedings against Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, have often been opaque and bureaucratic, the outcome of the multi-billion dollar settlement shaped by backroom deal-making.

But woven into the court record are dozens of personal letters written by people who say their families were ravaged by addiction that began with the company's powerful pain pills.

The outcome of a landmark federal opioid trial in West Virginia that reached closing arguments this week rests on two legally thorny questions.

Was it "unreasonable" for three of America's biggest corporations — the drug wholesalers AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — to ship roughly 81 million highly addictive opioid pills to pharmacies in one small Rust Belt city on the Ohio River?

Updated July 21, 2021 at 3:55 PM ET

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general announced on Wednesday a $26 billion national settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three companies that distributed opioid painkillers even as addiction and overdose deaths skyrocketed.

"The opioid epidemic has torn families apart and killed thousands of North Carolinians," said North Carolina state Attorney General Josh Stein, one of the lead negotiators.

Updated July 20, 2021 at 6:26 PM ET

A landmark national opioid settlement now being finalized would provide as much as $26 billion to states and communities struggling to respond to the opioid crisis.

That's according to a team of attorneys representing governments involved in the litigation who briefed reporters Tuesday.

Sources have told NPR a final deal could be reached as early as this week, but details are still being negotiated.

Updated July 19, 2021 at 10:56 PM ET

The U.S. Justice Department is condemning a proposed bankruptcy settlement for Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin. In court filings Monday, two divisions of the DOJ described the plan as fatally flawed.

The DOJ's U.S. Trustee program, which serves as a national watchdog over the federal bankruptcy system, said the deal is unconstitutional and illegal.

Nine months before a massive section of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla., came showering down, an engineering firm called Morabito Consultants found "severely deteriorated" concrete throughout the building, including in load-bearing structures known as corbels.

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Updated July 8, 2021 at 7:57 AM ET

Fifteen states that led the effort to block a controversial bankruptcy plan for OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma have abandoned the fight.

That's according to court documents filed by a mediator late Wednesday as part of a federal bankruptcy proceeding in White Plains, N.Y.

Among the states that have agreed to sign on to the bankruptcy deal are Massachusetts and New York, whose attorneys general had mounted fierce legal opposition to the agreement.

Just weeks before Champlain Towers South collapsed, town officials in Surfside, Fla., were demanding immediate changes on the property — but all of their requirements focused on relatively minor concerns.

A poolside gate needed repair. A hedge had to be trimmed to accommodate emergency vehicles. Paving stones had to be replaced.

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Just one month after an engineering report warned of "major structural damage" that required immediate repair, a Surfside, Fla., official assured residents of Champlain Towers South that their building was sound.

Updated June 26, 2021 at 5:56 PM ET

A structural engineering report provided to the Champlain Towers condominium association in 2018 found widespread problems that required extensive repairs "in the near future."

The consulting group that wrote the report noted Saturday that the document "detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public."

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This week marks the 50th anniversary of the war on drugs. And today, we'll visit two communities that found themselves on the frontlines. Huntington, W.V., and Brownsville, N.Y., were hit hard by drug addiction. They're also places where people say drug war policies left deep scars. NPR addiction correspondent Brian Mann reports.

Every time Shani Damron, 34, buys methamphetamines or heroin on the streets of Huntington, W.Va., she knows the risk is extreme.

"That fentanyl is no joke," Damron said, referring to the deadly synthetic opioid that now contaminates much of the illegal drug supply in the United States. "Every time we stick a needle in our arm, we're taking a 50-50 chance. We could die."

There's also a high risk of disease from contaminated needles shared by drug users. Damron's community has seen a major HIV/AIDS outbreak.

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