Fighting opioids in the court and streets

AG announces big drug bust; Healey and Baker pen op-ed

ATTORNEY GENERAL MAURA HEALEY announced a massive drug bust just a day after co-penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with Gov. Charlie Baker about the opioid crisis and her lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals.

Healey’s office called Thursday’s announcement of drug busts in Methuen and Lawrence the largest drug takedown in the state’s history, with 12 individuals arrested, four guns, $100,000 in cash, and 24 kilos of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine seized. The two-year operation was carried out by the Fentanyl Strike Force, a law enforcement effort put together in 2016 to take on criminal drug operations across the northeast.

“We’re dismantling major drug networks and we’re taking millions of lethal doses of heroin and fentanyl off the street,” Healey said. “Every drug we take off the street is potentially a life saved.”

As law enforcement ups its game on the streets to keep opioids out of users’ hands, Healey is taking to the courtroom in an attempt to hold those who might have started the problem in the first place accountable.

Her office sued Purdue in January over deceptive marketing of opioids to doctors and patients, alleging that Purdue and its Sackler family owners were aware that OxyContin was addictive and deadly. Healey and Baker wrote they will do “whatever it takes” to hold the company accountable.

“The company deceived prescribers and patients about its drugs. Purdue sold more than 70 million doses of opioids to Massachusetts patients, generating more than $500 million,” the letter to the editor said.

Those decisions, they said, “caused much of the epidemic,” along with Purdue allegedly targeting specific communities in marketing. This comes a few weeks after Purdue Pharma chairman Steve Miller wrote in the Journal that it was “inaccurate and unfair” to blame and target his company specifically for the opioid crisis, especially in court.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Litigation may satisfy the public’s desire for a scapegoat, but real long-term solutions are needed. The first step should be a constructive global resolution to the opioid litigation that helps suffering people and strained communities,” Miller said.

The families of the 670 people who have died in Massachusetts from opioid overdoses, and those who struggle with relapses mentioned in Baker and Healey’s op-ed, would probably disagree.