Health Highlights

October 21, 2020

Health Highlights: Oct. 21, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Purdue Pharma to Plead Guilty to Opioid-Related Crimes

Purdue Pharma, maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin linked to the opioid epidemic, will plead guilty to three federal crimes as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The company will plead guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws, the Justice Department officials to the AP.

The plea bargain does not absolve company executives or owners, including members of the Sackler family, from criminal liability.

The settlement is the federal government's biggest win in seeking to hold a major drug company responsible for an addiction and overdose crisis tied to more than 470,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000, the AP says.

As part of the deal, the company will admit that it misled the Drug Enforcement Administration by falsely claiming it had an effective program to avoid drug diversion and by sending misleading information to the agency to increase the company's manufacturing quotas, the officials said.

A Justice Department official told the AP that Purdue had been representing to the DEA that it had "robust controls" to avoid opioid diversion but instead had been "disregarding red flags their own systems were sending up."

Purdue will also admit to violating federal anti-kickback laws by paying doctors to write more prescriptions for the company's opioids and for using electronic health records to influence the prescription of pain medication.

The company will pay $225 million to the government, which is part of a $2 billion criminal forfeiture. Also, Purdue faces a $3.54 billion criminal fine. That money will most likely not be fully collected because it will be part of a bankruptcy, which includes other creditors. Purdue will also agree to $2.8 billion in damages to resolve its civil liability, the AP reported.

Purdue would become a public benefit company, meaning it would be run by a trust that has to balance the trust's interests against those of the American people and public health, the officials told the AP. The Sacklers would not be involved in the new company.


COVID-Related Deaths Hit 300,000: CDC

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of early October nearly 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

These deaths include those directly caused by the virus and almost 100,000 that would not have happened if not for the virus. These include deaths from COVID-19 that were misclassified or missed and deaths from heart attacks that weren't treated because victims were afraid to go to the hospital, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The largest percentage increase in excess deaths is among young adults aged 25 to 44, a 27% increase, compared with a 14% increase among those over 85.

Excess deaths among Blacks and Hispanics of all ages also rose, compared with past years -- 33% and 54% respectively. Among whites, the increase in deaths was 12%, according to the CDC.

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