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How opioids inundated communities across the country

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OxyContin pill bottles
Family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma in August 2018.
Jessica Hill | AP 2018

Between 2006 and 2012, more than 840 million prescription opioid pills made their way across the state of Minnesota. 

Newly released data from the Drug Enforcement Administration, analyzed by the Washington Post, paints a grim picture. 

Nearly 100,000 people across the country died from opioid-related deaths during this seven-year span.

Findings from a lawsuit in Ohio show that drug companies ignored alarms raised by some of their employees about filling unusually large orders during the height of the crisis. 

That same lawsuit includes testimony from a senior DEA official who was asked why there were no federal charges against a company that supplied a town of 400 people with 5 million pills in just two years. The official declined to answer.

An investigation by 60 Minutes and the Washington Post might hold the answer. 

Their reporting shows that between 2014 and 2016, the drug industry dumped over $100 million into lobbying efforts. In 2016, Congress passed a law that limited the DEA’s ability to freeze suspicious shipments from drug companies. 

Steven Rich, database editor for the Washington Post, and Dr. Joseph Lee, medical director of Hazelden Betty Ford’s youth services, joined MPR reporter Brandt Williams for a conversation about efforts to end the opioid crisis and hold its enablers accountable.

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