Washington Post

How Johnson & Johnson companies used a 'super poppy' to make narcotics for America's most abused opioid pills

The Tasmanian Alkaloids facility in Westbury, Tasmania, processes poppies for use in prescription opioids. In 2016, Johnson & Johnson sold the company. Foto: Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges

LAUNCESTON, Australia - As the United States was succumbing to an epidemic of addiction, the Johnson & Johnson family of companies became the leading maker of narcotics for popular opioid pills, a dominance achieved through decades of innovation, navigation of U.S. drug policy, and the cultivation of poppies in this remote haven on the other side of the world.

Johnson & Johnson's supply chain began in Tasmania, an island 150 miles south of mainland Australia, where scientists in the mid-1990s altered the genetics of thousands of plants to engineer a "super poppy" that was particularly rich in opiates...

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