Making a Difference - National

Making a Difference highlights the power of news media titles to campaign for positive change. Earlier this week, an online vote was held to determine which local and national campaigns from the past year are the public's favourites.

The winners will be announced on Friday 9 October. Browse the local campaigns here

Making a Difference

Opioid Crisis

The past year has seen The Sunday Times expose the extent of Britain's opioid crisis.

Using previously unpublished data and powerful case studies, Andrew Gregory has shown how America's painkiller epidemic has been mirrored in Britain, catapulting the issue to the top of the health agenda and triggering a range of reforms.

His initial investigation, published in February 2019, found startling regional disparities, with four times as many prescriptions handed out in the north of England as in London. Gregory also found evidence of a network of black-market dealers buying opioids from China, with weak online regulation exacerbating the crisis.

A subsequent report in May 2019 found that Pain UK, a charity promoting the use of opioids to improve the lives of patients, had failed to disclose its links to drug manufacturers. The report prompted the Charity Commission to launch an inquiry.

The investigation’s findings were praised by Health Secretary Matt Hancock who announced that tens of millions of packs of opioids would have to carry addiction warnings on their labels. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence launched the largest overhaul of opioid prescribing guidelines in decades.

The General Pharmaceutical Council tightened rules for online chemists selling opioids. The evidence was submitted to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence and the work was cited in both the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament.

The Patients Association hailed the investigation as "hugely powerful". The Royal College of Psychiatrists said it was "excellent" journalism and Keith Humphreys, a professor at Stanford University and President Obama's former drug policy advisor, described Gregory's work as "essential reporting."