WELCH, West Virginia (Reuters) – The opioid epidemic that has so far killed half a million Americans is routinely blamed on greedy drug makers, feckless doctors and lax regulators. But there’s another group that has contributed to the depth and duration of the catastrophe: judges. Judge Booker T. Stephens poses in his courtroom in Welch, West Virginia, U.S., February 7, 2019. Picture taken February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Benjamin Lesser Judges like Booker T. Stephens. Until his retirement in May, Stephens sat on the West Virginia Circuit Court in Welch, deep in Appalachian coal country, where addiction took early root among miners who were prescribed the blockbuster opioid OxyContin for the pain their jobs inflicted. And it was in his court where the first lawsuit filed by a state against OxyContin’s maker, Purdue Pharma LP, landed in 2001. West Virginia accused Purdue of duping doctors into widely prescribing the drug by minimizing its risks, convincing them it was less addictive than other opioids because just one dose delivered steady relief for 12 hours. In the pretrial “discovery” phase of the case, Purdue sent thousands of pages of internal memos, notes from sales calls on doctors, marketing plans and other records to the… Read full this story
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