Pharmaceuticals

British company Reckitt Benckiser has agreed to pay $1.4 billion to resolve all U.S. government investigations and claims in what is the biggest drug industry settlement to date stemming from the nation's deadly opioid epidemic.

In a statement Thursday, Reckitt Benckiser denied wrongdoing but said the settlement deal "avoids the costs, uncertainty and distraction associated with continued investigations, litigation and the potential for an indictment."

Two years ago, the drug company Insys Therapeutics posted a quarter-billion dollars in annual sales. But the Arizona-based firm's fortunes plummeted so far that on Monday its leaders declared bankruptcy. It was the latest fall-out from the nation's prescription opioid epidemic, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans and triggered hundreds of lawsuits against Big Pharma.

Insys Therapeutics, an opioid manufacturer, has agreed to pay $225 million to settle the federal government's criminal and civil investigations into the company's marketing practices. As part of the settlement, Insys Therapeutics admitted to bribing doctors to prescribe its opioid painkiller.

Last month, a federal jury in Boston found five top Insys Therapeutics executives guilty of racketeering conspiracy for these same practices. Now, the federal government is holding the company accountable.

Imagine for a minute: A company makes a vaccine that protects kids from a life-threatening disease but, with little warning, decides to stop selling it in the U.S.

That's exactly what happened last year in West Africa, for a vaccine against rotavirus — a disease that kills about 200,000 young children and babies each year.

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET

A jury in Boston has found onetime billionaire and drug company executive John Kapoor and his four co-defendants guilty of a racketeering conspiracy. The verdict came Wednesday after 15 days of deliberation.

A new poll by NPR and Ipsos finds a third of Americans have been touched directly by the deadly opioid epidemic that still kills more than 100 people every day. "One in three have been personally affected in some way, either by knowing someone who has overdosed or by knowing someone with an opioid addiction," said Mallory Newall, lead Ipsos researcher on the survey.

Consumers, lawmakers and industry players all seem to agree that prescription drugs prices are too high. What they can't always agree on is whom to blame.

On Tuesday, though, fingers are expected to point toward pharmacy benefit managers, the industry's mysterious middlemen.

The Senate Finance Committee will hear from executives from the biggest pharmacy benefit managers, led by CVS Caremark and Cigna's Express Scripts.

A week after winning a $270 million settlement against Purdue Pharma, Oklahoma is dropping a laundry list of civil claims against drug companies at the center of the national opioid epidemic. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said the move would "refocus" the lawsuit slated to go to trial May 28.

Two months ago, Paul Lara saw a letter from his doctor to his insurance company. He recalls looking at the bottom of the page, next to the doctor's signature, "It says: Does this patient have cancer? He marked yes."

Only one problem: Paul Lara has never had cancer.

After decades as a commercial fisherman in Texas, Lara was badly injured on the job. In 2013, his doctor prescribed a high dose of an opioid called Subsys for Lara's back and neck pain. The fentanyl-based spray can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine.

New York state Attorney General Letitia James leveled the fiercest legal broadside yet against the Sackler family, owners of the privately-held Purdue Pharma which makes the powerful prescription painkiller Oxycontin.

A civil suit filed Thursday accuses eight members of the family of personally contributing to the deadly opioid epidemic, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans over the last two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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