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Billionaire drug executive who helped fuel opioid crisis to now make millions selling treatment for opioid addiction

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A man taking a pill (Shutterstock)

On Friday, the Financial Times reported that billionaire pharmaceutical tycoon Richard Sackler has secured a patent for a new drug to treat opioid addiction.

The drug, a reformulation of buprenorphine, is essentially just a milder opioid that can blunt the symptoms of withdrawal while a person is being weaned off — competing variants of which are already generating nearly $900 million in U.S. sales.

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Sackler’s family also happens to own Purdue Pharma, the company that first developed OxyContin — a powerful narcotic painkiller that has been blamed for spurring the epidemic of opioid addiction that has decimated communities all across America.

In other words, Sackler made millions off of sales of a drug that caused a massive public health crisis — and now he stands to make millions more by selling the public a solution.

Purdue, one of several drug companies that made a decades-long push for liberal prescription of opioids, is currently facing a mountain of lawsuits. Prosecutors in several states allege Purdue was aware of the risk of addiction and overdose, but deceived doctors and patients and downplayed the risks to increase their sales — a charge the company denies. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey directly names several members of the Sackler family as defendants.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that up to 12 percent of patients prescribed an opioid develop an abuse disorder, and as many as 6 percent eventually switch to heroin. More than 115 people a day are now killed by opioid overdoses.

Rural areas have been especially impacted, with an astonishing 74 percent of farmers reporting they or someone they know is suffering from opioid addiction.

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While increased availability of addiction treatment is a good thing, it is not a solution to the epidemic. Opioids remain a necessary tool to treat severe pain from surgery, cancer, and other serious conditions, but they must be used judiciously, and alternative therapies must be made available — particularly in lower-income rural areas where people are at higher risk.


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2020 Election

GOP senator knows Trump lost but thinks it would be ‘political suicide’ to admit it: report

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is still spouting conspiracy theories about the election being "stolen" from President Donald Trump -- but according to one former Wisconsin Republican official, Johnson understands that Trump lost.

Mark Becker, the former Chairman of the Brown County Republican Party, writes at The Bulwark that he had a conversation with Johnson after the election in which the senator acknowledged Trump's defeat.

However, Johnson said that he was loathe to admit it publicly because of the strong support the president had received from Wisconsin GOP voters, despite the fact that the president narrowly lost the state this year.

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‘Dumbest senator ever’: Morning Joe mocks Republican Ron Johnson

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough mocked Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for demanding proof of something that doesn't exist.

Attorney General William Barr announced the Department of Justice had found no evidence of voter fraud, as President Donald Trump has claimed, and Johnson called on Barr to "show everybody" the proof that the election had not been stolen.

"The man Guinness Book of World Records has called the dumbest senator to ever be sworn in in this constitutional republic," Scarborough said. "I'm speaking, of course, of Ron Johnson, who said that William Barr must show his evidence that he has no evidence."

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2020 Election

‘Whiny kid’ Trump’s tantrums over election loss getting ignored by Pennsylvania swing county voters

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President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election are being met with shrugs in a key Pennsylvania swing county that helped deliver the state to President-elect Joe Biden this year.

The New York Times reports that many Biden voters in Bucks County say they aren't worried about Trump's frantic efforts to get hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania votes tossed out.

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