Winner 2016

Heart of an Epidemic, West Virginia’s Opioid Addiction

The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley

Opioid addiction is one of the biggest healthcare crises today, reaching epidemic levels as it continues to eat away and destroy largely working class communities across the country. CBS reporter Jim Axelrod ventured to the heart of the matter in West Virginia, which carries the unhappy statistic of having the highest rate of prescription overdose deaths in the nation. The problem led the state’s highest court to make it possible for patients to sue doctors and pharmacies for negligence for overprescribing pills. In a thorough investigation, Axelrod drills down into the institutions and people feeding the problem—from working class individuals trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction to shady “pill mills” and doctors interested more in profit than healing. Especially revealing is the lack of oversight in Big Pharma, which turns a blind eye to the disbursement of unusually high levels of pills, preferring to spend millions to settle cases while continuing to reap bigger profits at the sake of patient and community well-being. A stunning interview with one doctor led to his medical license being revoked; another with the state’s attorney general raised questions about conflicts of interest. For solid reporting of a flawed system where lives are at stake, but one that also reveals culpability and collusion of both government and industry, Heart of an Epidemic, West Virginia’s Opioid Addiction wins a Peabody Award.


Executive Producer: Steve Capus. Senior Producer: Heather Abbott. Producers: Ashley Velie, David Gladstone, Michael Cesario. Talent: Jim Axelrod.