‘Fourth Wave’ of Opioid Epidemic Crashes Ashore, Propelled by Fentanyl and Meth



The United States is knee-deep in what some experts call the opioid epidemic’s “fourth wave,” which is not only placing drug users at greater risk but is also complicating efforts to address the nation’s drug problem.

These waves, according to a report out today from Millennium Health, began with the crisis in prescription opioid use, followed by a significant jump in heroin use, then an increase in the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The latest wave involves using multiple substances at the same time, combining fentanyl mainly with either methamphetamine or cocaine, the report found. “And I’ve yet to see a peak,” said one of the co-authors, Eric Dawson, vice president of clinical affairs at Millennium Health, a specialty laboratory that provides drug testing services to monitor use of prescription medications and illicit drugs.

The report, which takes a deep dive into the nation’s drug trends and breaks usage patterns down by region, is based on 4.1 million urine samples collected from January 2013 to December 2023 from people receiving some kind of drug addiction care.

Its findings offer staggering statistics and insights. Its major finding: how common polysubstance use has become. According to the report, an overwhelming majority of fentanyl-positive urine samples — nearly 93% — contained additional substances. “And that is huge,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

Author(s): Colleen DeGuzman

Publication Date: 21 Feb 2024

Publication Site: KFF Health News

States Pressure Drugmakers After McKinsey’s $600 Million Opioid Settlement

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-pressure-drug-makers-after-mckinseys-600-million-opioid-settlement-11612476966


State attorneys general intensified pressure on drug companies to settle claims over the opioid crisis, following consulting firm McKinsey & Co.’s agreement to pay nearly $600 million over its advice to pharmaceutical companies to rev up sales.

McKinsey’s settlements, reached with every state but Nevada, are an unexpected first source of revenue to stem from yearslong investigations into drug-industry players that states say helped exacerbate an opioid epidemic. It has killed at least 400,000 people in the U.S. since 1999.

“We do not want to be in litigation for years on this, spending money and resources while people are dying,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Thursday. “We want to get fair settlements now. Others need to follow suit.”

States have been negotiating since 2019 with the nation’s three largest drug distributors, McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., as well as drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. The companies have publicly disclosed that they have set aside a collective $26 billion for the deal, most of it to be paid over 18 years, but no final agreement has been reached.

Authors: Sara Randazzo and Jonathan Randles

Publication Date: 4 February 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal