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Prosecutors say a Kentucky hospital system will pay a $4.4 million civil penalty to settle claims that its faulty recordkeeping enabled a worker to divert 60,000 doses of opioids. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Lexington says Pikeville Medical Center agreed to pay the fine to resolve claims it violated the Controlled Substances Act. Prosecutors say the hospital system failed to maintain accurate and complete inventories and dispensing records for Schedule II substances over a two-year period. A former hospital pharmacy technician and her husband pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute the drugs involved. The hospital's settlement includes inspection, reporting and training requirements.

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St. Louis County prosecutors say two adults are charged in the death of a toddler who ingested fentanyl. Police announced Thursday that the child died at a hospital after officers went to a home in Florissant in November. She has been identified as 21-month-old Lilinna Leak. Prosecutors have charged 35-year-old Amanda Tufts and 25-year-old James Collins each with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. A probable cause statement says officers found the child unconscious at the home. A hospital screening found fentanyl in her system. The statement says detectives found a large amount of drug paraphernalia, powder residue and handguns in the home.

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Fentanyl testing strips would be decriminalized under a bill passed by the Ohio House. Lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a proposal that proponents say would help prevent fatal overdoses and save lives. The strips are used to detect the powerful synthetic opioid often found laced in other drugs. The strips would no longer be classified as illegal drug paraphernalia under the bipartisan measure. Democratic sponsor Rep. Kristin Boggs, of Columbus, calls that a “critical step” and a tool to help prevent fentanyl overdoses. No one has testified against the bill. It now goes to the Senate.

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Fentanyl has become a scourge across America and is taking a toll on the growing number of people living on the streets of Los Angeles. About a third of the 2,000 homeless deaths between April 2020 and March 2021 were from an overdose. The federal government says the highly addictive and lethal synthetic drug has quickly become the deadliest drug in the nation. While help is available, it is outpaced by the magnitude of misery on the streets. Homeless addicts in Los Angeles can be seen sprawled on sidewalks or passed out in alleys. Others peddle tiny doses and puffs of smoke to the desperate seeking their next high.

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Around 200 backers of Thailand’s liberalized marijuana regulations have rallied in Bangkok to protest the possible rollback of the drug's recent decriminalization. Marijuana for medicinal purposes was made legal in June, but the absence of a special law specifying the conditions for its cultivation and sale allowed the growth of a recreational marijuana industry. The demonstrators don’t want rules that would restore tight restrictions on the drug. Sale and use of marijuana was effectively decriminalized when the Health Ministry dropped it from its list of what it deems “narcotic” drugs. The move was a key policy of the health minister, who foresaw huge economic potential in the medical marijuana market. Marijuana shops have sprung up in many Bangkok neighborhoods.

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New government data suggests U.S. overdose deaths have stopped rising, but many experts are urging caution. They note that past plateaus didn’t last. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data on what happened through the first six months of this year. The news appears to be hopeful. Provisional data indicates U.S. overdose deaths fell three months in a row. But the decline is uneven. Only eight states reported fewer overdose deaths, while all the others showed continued increases. And only four states — Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — reported sizable overdose death decreases of 100 or more.

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Asian shares were mostly lower Wednesday, as investors got jittery over global risks after Poland said a Russian-made missile killed two people there. Benchmarks fell in morning trading in Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul and Hong Kong, while shares were little changed in Shanghai. Details were unclear, including who fired the missile and from where. President Joe Biden, in Indonesia for the Group of 20 summit, promised “full U.S support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation.” Wall Street closed higher, boosted by more signs the nation’s high inflation may be falling off faster than expected. Oil prices fell back.

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Walmart has agreed to pay $3.1 billion to settle lawsuits nationwide over the impact of the prescriptions its pharmacies filled for powerful prescription opioid painkillers. The deal would still need to be approved by 43 states to take effect. It also includes $78 million for Native American tribes. Pharmacy chains CVS Health and Walgreen Co. each said they would pay about $5 billion over time to settle their suits. All told, the opioid crisis has been linked more more than 500,000 U.S. deaths over the past two decades. Other major drugmakers and distributors have already finalized settlements in some cases.

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A prosecutor says a student who died at an Alabama high school and four others who were taken to a hospital probably were sickened by something that had been laced with fentanyl. Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson says investigators are still awaiting results from an autopsy and toxicology tests before making a final determination. But he says the powerful painkiller likely was to blame. Authorities were called to Selma High School around noon Tuesday after the students began showing signs of health problems. A 16-year-old student died and the others were taken to a hospital for evaluation.

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"Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis" by Beth Macy; Little, Brown (373 pages, $30) ——— It was historic — and alarming — news when in August the National Center for Health Statistics announced that, for the second year in a row, life expectancy for Americans had declined, dropping to a level last seen three decades ago. One factor in that drop was, of ...

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