Brian Mann

Updated May 3, 2021 at 9:51 PM ET

A senior Drug Enforcement Administration official told NPR efforts to target drug cartels operating inside Mexico have unraveled because of a breakdown in cooperation between law enforcement agencies and militaries in the two countries.

For months, members of the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, have portrayed their bid for immunity from future opioid lawsuits as a kind of fait accompli, a take-it-or-leave-it fix to a legal morass.

The Biden administration says new federal guidelines released Tuesday will allow far more medical practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug proven to reduce opioid relapses and overdose deaths.

The change lowers regulatory hurdles that critics believe sharply limit use of the life-saving medication at a time when drug deaths are surging.

"We have made this much easier for physicians but also for other medical practitioners," said Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health, speaking with NPR.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Researchers gathered for a conference on addiction this week received a grim update on the growing spread of street drugs laced with deadly synthetic opioids including fentanyl.

The trend contributed to a stark rise in overdoses that left more than 90,000 Americans dead during the 12-month period ending in September 2020, according to the latest data.

A state court in Tennessee has punished Endo Pharmaceuticals for improperly withholding a vast trove of documents relating to the sale and marketing of its opioid medication Opana ER.

The judge presiding over the civil trial also concluded the drugmaker and its attorneys made at least a dozen false statements during the pretrial fact-finding process.

"It appears to the court that Endo and its attorneys, after delaying trial, have resorted to trying to improperly corrupt the record," wrote Chancellor E.G. Moody in a judgment issued on April 6.

When George Floyd's girlfriend Courteney Ross took the stand for the prosecution, she described the couple's struggle with drugs as part of the nation's deadly opioid epidemic.

"It's a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids," Ross testified. "We both suffered from chronic pain. We both had prescriptions."

During the opioid crisis, millions of Americans became addicted to prescription painkillers, then turned to street opioids including fentanyl. "We tried really hard to break that addiction many times," Ross said.

Updated April 8, 2021 at 6:20 PM ET

Late in Patrick Radden Keefe's brutal, multigenerational treatment of the Sackler family, Empire of Pain, he offers a jarring anecdote.

It's 2019. The scandal surrounding OxyContin, Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers' role in America's devastating opioid epidemic is front-page news. Hundreds of people are dying every day from overdoses.

Drug deaths spiked dramatically during a period that includes the first six months of the pandemic, up roughly 27% compared with the previous year, the acting head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said Thursday.

"We lost 88,000 people in the 12-month period ending in August 2020," Regina LaBelle told reporters during a morning briefing. "Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and synthetic opioids are the primary drivers of this increase."

Updated March 31, 2021 at 11:45 AM ET

Democrats who dominate New York state politics pushed through a marijuana legalization measure Tuesday that backers say will expunge the felony drug records of tens of thousands of people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law on Wednesday. He had said earlier that it will bring "justice for long-marginalized communities."

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