fentanyl

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

At least 10 people have died from overdoses related to carfentanil in New Hampshire so far this year, according to the latest edition of a semi-monthly report on drug deaths.

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Despite mounting public awareness, New Hampshire, like other states, struggles to contain its opioid epidemic. Part of the problem is a lack of real-time information about who’s using opioids, especially fentanyl, and how government policies can help them stop.

Paige Sutherland

On Tuesday, public health officials confirmed the first cases of overdose deaths from carfentanil in New Hampshire. Carfentanil is a synthetic opiod and much more potent than the painkiller fentanyl. It can be mixed with heroin with deadly results. It can also be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled, posing a risk to first responders and health workers. 

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Public health officials announced Tuesday that for the first time in New Hampshire, the synthetic opioid carfentanil was found in the blood of three residents who died from overdoses. The drug is approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, and is commonly used as a tranquilizer for large animals, including elephants.

Speaking at a press conference, Governor Chris Sununu said the state’s forensic lab  confirmed the presence of the drug earlier in the day.

Brian Wallstin

A New Hampshire physician's assistant was arrested Friday by federal agents on allegations he received kickbacks for prescribing large amounts of an opioid painkiller. According to officials, Clough was the state's top prescriber of a fentanyl spray called Subsys.

Related story on Clough: Opioid Prescriber's Story a Cautionary Tale as N.H. Face Growing Crisis

Since Rhode Island health officials reported a cluster of fatal overdoses of fentanyl in spring 2013, the drug has replaced prescription painkillers and heroin as the chief driver of the nation’s opioid crisis.

In New Hampshire, fentanyl has been implicated in at least 789 deaths since 2014, or two of every three fatal overdoses. Here are four reasons why New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic is now a fentanyl crisis.

For over a year, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has been trying to determine whether drug makers break the law in how they marketed opioid painkillers in the state. It’s a slow legal battle that could determine that pharmaceutical companies knew they were putting people at risk by overselling highly addictive painkillers. Many of those painkillers were abused – leading to an addiction and overdose epidemic.

There’s been a new development in that story, and NHPR’s Jack Rodolico sat down with Morning Edition to talk about it.

  Officials say an Arizona company that makes a spray version of an opioid painkiller for cancer patients has agreed to pay nearly $3 million after New Hampshire investigators determined the drug was being marketed to people who shouldn't be using it.

WMUR-TV reports Insys Therapeutics also agreed to properly market the drug, Subsys, and give $500,000 to combat the state's opioid crisis. Insys doesn't admit wrongdoing.

The spray version of fentanyl is absorbed under the tongue. It's more powerful than heroin.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

One New Hampshire lawmaker wants to add a new charge to the state’s criminal code: Under his proposal, someone who provides another person with a lethal dose of heroin or fentanyl would be charged with manslaughter

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Police in southern New Hampshire are reporting an increase in overdose deaths since Christmas Eve.

The Salem Police Department says it has responded to five overdoses since Dec. 24, a higher number than normal. Two of the overdoses were fatal. The victims, found in two separate incidents, were a 24-year-old female and a 31-year-old male. The police have not released their names.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: December 23, 2016

Dec 22, 2016

It’s our year-end review of the top 2016 news stories in New Hampshire, from politics to precipitation. It was a year in which PFOA. became a household term in many communities, the First In the Nation presidential primary seemed to last forever, and fentanyl made its mark, causing a steep increase in overdose deaths.  We'll also discuss this week's alarming report on the state's child protective services agency.


Paige Sutherland/NHPR

  At least 369 people have fatally overdosed in New Hampshire this year, according to an update released Tuesday by the state medical examiner.

But the state says another 78 cases are still under review, so the actual number could be even higher. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

 Fentanyl continues to be the main culprit behind deadly overdoses in New Hampshire: It’s been linked to 70 percent of drug deaths so far this year, according to the latest data from the state medical examiner.

A 26-year-old Portsmouth woman was sentenced to serve between eight and 20 years in prison for selling the fatal dose of drugs that caused a Maine man to overdose in 2015.

NH1.com reports Amanda Burgess was sentenced Tuesday after reaching an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to charges of supplying fentanyl with death resulting.

Prosecutors say Burgess sold a $40 dose of the synthetic opiate to 27-year-old Joseph Cahill, who was found dead on June 15, 2015. Burgess, a known heroin dealer, fled New Hampshire after the York, Maine man died.

eric molina / Flickr/CC

We're checking in on the state's response to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

At least five men and five women have died of drug overdoses in New Hampshire so far in 2016, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The actual number of drug deaths this year could be higher, as an additional 86 possible overdose cases are still awaiting toxicology. It can take several months for the state to fully review a suspected overdose to confirm the cause of death.

Jack Rodolico

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s investigation into marketing practices by large pharmaceutical companies hit a roadblock this week. The Attorney General wants to know if those companies have been deceptively marketing opioids - drugs that have been diverted in mass quantities to fuel addictions and overdoses. But a court order now slows down that process.

At least three people have died from drug overdoses so far this year in New Hampshire, but the state medical examiner's office is awaiting toxicology results on another 60 cases that have come into its lab this year.

According to the most recent data, at least 420 people died from drug overdoses in 2015 — that figure is more than double what it was two years ago.

A new Massachusetts law criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl is taking effect.

The law creates the crime of trafficking in fentanyl for amounts greater than 10 grams with punishment of up to 20 years in state prison. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.

As state officials feared, drug overdose deaths rose significantly in New Hampshire last year, to well over 400 cases.

The latest data from the state's medical examiner show that 414 people suffered fatal overdoses in 2015, up from 326 in 2014 and 192 the year before.

File Photo

The 72-acre, sprawling campus of Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center - with about a dozen buildings overlooking lakes and mountains - has always been used as a place to treat people with brain injuries or developmental disabilities. But there has always been controversy too.

    

In 1992 the FBI raided the site when they suspected the original owners of fraud. And then last year, after the Disability Rights Center put out a scathing report on Lakeview’s practices, the state shut it down. The place was notorious for poor care. But Eric Spofford hopes to change all that.

A special task force on the state's opioid crisis has given the initial stamp of approval to a bill that would impose stricter criminal penalties for the distribution of fentanyl.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

Approved by a special legislative session, a newly minted task force will spend the next weeks considering several options for tackling the state’s drug problem, which has claimed more than five hundred lives in the last two years. The goal is to craft legislation quickly -- in time for the January return of the legislature.

GUESTS:F

Casey McDermott, NHPR

 When Tim Pifer started out two decades ago as a drug chemist with the state, it didn’t take long at all to process the drug samples dropped off by law enforcement.

“There literally was a time when we’d take the drugs in, and we’d tell the officers to go downstairs and have a coffee, and we’d give you the drugs back,” Pifer recalled Friday.

Not so anymore.

  The state’s Medical Examiner’s Office says the number of people who died of drug overdoses in 2014 is up to 300. That’s a record for the state and the number could still climb as ‘cause of death’ is determined for pending cases.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl was identified in a growing number of overdose deaths and even outpaced heroin as the leading cause of drug-related deaths last year. There were 193 drug-related deaths in 2013.

State officials say opioid abuse has reached epidemic levels.