Just as attorneys generals for more than a dozen states inch toward a multibillion-dollar settlement with a drug maker faulted for its big role in the start of the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis, that health menace is taking a new, deadly turn in the region around the nation’s capital.
In Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, officials report they are grappling with spiking overdose deaths, numbering in the hundreds, and blamed on the rise of fentanyl. It is a synthetic, prescription painkiller developed to assist late-stage cancer patients. It packs a wallop. And Big Pharma companies pushed for its wider use with aggressive marketing and sales campaign that landed some drug executives in jail.
The excessive promotion of fentanyl also led to its illegal manufacture, notably in chemical factories in China. Its increasing abuse, along with other opioids, also opened the door to big problems with illicit drugs.