Armstrong joined STAT in October 2015, just before the launch of the publication. He is the senior enterprise reporter.
Most recently, his work has focused on the national opioid crisis.
Dope Sick is a story of two best friends from Ohio who grow up to share an addiction for opioids before crossing paths with a stealth killer that is ravaging communities across the country.
Poynter called it a “knockout, tragic tale.” Journalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN and elsewhere praised the story, calling it “a staggering story of addiction and loss” and “disturbing and deeply reported.” It was translated and published in France.
Hear a discussion of the story on NPR’s Here and Now.
Armstrong co-produced a documentary called Runnin’ about a circle of friends who came of age just as OxyContin hit the streets. It is an intimate, raw and unique exploration of the opioid crisis that traces an epidemic’s origins to the current day destruction in working-class Somerville, Mass. The documentary is being screened at festivals in late 2017 and early 2018.
STAT’s work on the opioid crisis also includes a court fight to win the release of sealed records related to the marketing of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma LP. In West Virginia, a motion filed by STAT won the release of secret records that resulted in a story on how the maker of OxyContin thwarted a plan to limit prescribing of the drug and another story on the marketing of OxyContin. Media outlets from National Public Radio to Fox News picked up on the stories. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted, “When I talk about drug corporations being a major threat to the lives of Americans this is what I mean.”
Armstrong traveled to Lubbock, Texas to write about the trafficking of fentanyl delivered via the mail and the devastation that followed.
In this story, the current day marketing of prescription fentanyl and the fatal consequences for one woman was chronicled. The story prompted a strong reaction from the New Jersey attorney general’s office.
In 2017, Armstrong teamed up with Evan Allen of the Boston Globe to expose fraud and unethical behavior in a series of stories called The Addiction Trade. The stories prompted congressional and criminal probes, as well as the closing of one of the largest addiction treatment centers in Massachusetts.
This story and this one revealed a teeming national trade in people suffering from addiction akin to the sex trade; Vulnerable people were being recruited and put on planes by brokers, who were often paid hundreds of dollars per head by treatment centers eager to cash in on lucrative insurance payments. Two stories – here and here – examined the popular daytime television show Dr. Phil and allegations guests battling substance use disorders were being exploited. This story exposed shoddy care and turmoil at one of the country’s fastest-growing treatment chains.
This story reported on college football players who were able to stay on the field even after a doctor ruled it was too dangerous for them to continue competing. The report was featured on National Public Radio’s Here & Now Program and on a segment of PBS NewsHour.
The story was a winner of the 2016 Online News Association awards.
The dangerous work of poorly paid and trained courier drivers transporting narcotics to pharmacies was featured in this story
Delivery van driver John Latham at his home outside of Birmingham, Alabama, Dec. 18, 2016. (Wes Frazer for STAT)
All of Armstrong’s stories at STAT can be found here.