From The Washington Post

How Much Money Will It Take to Undo the Damage From Opioids?

October 30, 2019

Inside the plaintiffs’ war room, bleary-eyed, caffeinated lawyers worked on what would be one of the most important cases of their careers — the first bellwether trial in the national opioid litigation against the country’s biggest drug companies. Their rented office space across from the federal courthouse was crammed with copy machines, boxes of documents, whiteboards and — to capture the gravity of the work — some World War II-era propaganda posters.

“Careless Talk Costs Lives,” read one.

Inside the plaintiffs’ war room, bleary-eyed, caffeinated lawyers worked on what would be one of the most important cases of their careers — the first bellwether trial in the national opioid litigation against the country’s biggest drug companies. Their rented office space across from the federal courthouse was crammed with copy machines, boxes of documents, whiteboards and — to capture the gravity of the work — some World War II-era propaganda posters.

“Careless Talk Costs Lives,” read one.

Someone had stenciled a message on the wall: “If In Doubt Don’t Ship It Out.”

But their first battle, with two Ohio counties as plaintiffs, was called off at the last moment. At 1 a.m. on Oct. 21, hours before opening arguments were to start, four of the drug companies settled with Summit and Cuyahoga counties — with no admission of wrongdoing….

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Rates for the Most Common ACA Health Plans Drop for a Second Year

October 22, 2019

The average price for the most common type of health insurance sold through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace will drop by about 4 percent for next year, extending a reversal of steep rate increases that daunted HealthCare.gov in its early years.

The second consecutive year of lower monthly premiums coincides with a significant improvement in the number of insurance companies selling ACA health plans. Just 12 percent of ACA customers live in counties that will have only one insurer in the marketplace for the coming year, compared with almost 30 percent for 2018, and more than two-thirds will have a choice of at least three companies.

The average price for the most common type of health insurance sold through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace will drop by about 4 percent for next year, extending a reversal of steep rate increases that daunted HealthCare.gov in its early years.

The second consecutive year of lower monthly premiums coincides with a significant improvement in the number of insurance companies selling ACA health plans. Just 12 percent of ACA customers live in counties that will have only one insurer in the marketplace for the coming year, compared with almost 30 percent for 2018, and more than two-thirds will have a choice of at least three companies.

This brightening scenario for Americans buying such health insurance creates awkward conflicting messages for senior Trump administration officials who on Tuesday presented the statistical picture of the ACA marketplaces before the seventh annual enrollment season opens late next week….

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Johnson & Johnson Reaches $20.4 Million Settlement in Huge Opioid Case

October 2, 2019

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it has reached a $20.4 million settlement with two Ohio counties on the eve of a huge federal trial to determine who is responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Johnson & Johnson would pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties $10 million in cash, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs in those communities.

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it has reached a $20.4 million settlement with two Ohio counties on the eve of a huge federal trial to determine who is responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Johnson & Johnson would pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties $10 million in cash, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs in those communities.

“The settlement allows the company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis,” Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals said in a statement Tuesday night. “The company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need….”

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Purdue Pharma’s Bankruptcy Plan Includes Special Protection for the Sackler Family Fortune

September 18, 2019

In 2008, as Purdue Pharma was searching for a new chief executive, Richard Sackler received a memo from an adviser.

“In the event that a favorable [recapitalization] deal cannot be structured during 2008, the most certain way for the owners to diversify their risk is to distribute more free cash flow to themselves,” F. Peter Boer, a member of Purdue’s board of directors told Sackler, a prominent member of the wealthy family that owns the company.

In 2008, as Purdue Pharma was searching for a new chief executive, Richard Sackler received a memo from an adviser.

“In the event that a favorable [recapitalization] deal cannot be structured during 2008, the most certain way for the owners to diversify their risk is to distribute more free cash flow to themselves,” F. Peter Boer, a member of Purdue’s board of directors told Sackler, a prominent member of the wealthy family that owns the company.

That, authorities allege, is exactly what the Sackler family did. A lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts claims the Sacklers transferred more than $4 billion from the company to personal accounts between 2008 and 2016. Oregon asserts the family may have taken as much as $10 billion out of the company….

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Trump Administration Accuses Vermont Hospital of Forcing Nurse to Participate in Abortion

August 29, 2019

Federal health officials are accusing an academic medical center in Vermont of violating the civil rights of a Catholic nurse by calling on her to assist with an abortion against her beliefs.

The notice of violation, sent Wednesday to the University of Vermont Medical Center, is the latest example of the Trump administration’s focus on protecting “religious freedom” — a core value for antiabortion activists and other social conservatives who are key to the president’s political base.

Federal health officials are accusing an academic medical center in Vermont of violating the civil rights of a Catholic nurse by calling on her to assist with an abortion against her beliefs.

The notice of violation, sent Wednesday to the University of Vermont Medical Center, is the latest example of the Trump administration’s focus on protecting “religious freedom” — a core value for antiabortion activists and other social conservatives who are key to the president’s political base.

The action against the UVM medical center is the third enforcement action taken in the 1 1/2 years since the Department of Health and Human Services created a conscience and religious freedom division within its civil rights office. It is the first that deals specifically with a health-care worker’s objection to participating in an abortion….

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