DEA tracked every opioid pill sold in the US.

And the results are horrific.

USA opioid crisis, USA opioid crisis update, USA opioid crisis data, USA opioid crisis cdc report
6 drug distributors and 3 drug manufacturers are accused to be behind the unprecedented opioid crisis ravaging America right now. Picture: Laura Buckman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Between 2006 and 2012, 3 opioid drug makers and 6 distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone.

These highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period.

As the epidemic surged over the seven-year period, so did the supply. The companies increased distribution from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012, a jump of roughly 50%.

In all, the deluge of pills was enough to supply every adult and child in the country with around 36 opioid pills per year.

Just a 10-day supply can hook 1 in 5 people into being long-term users, researchers have determined.

The stunning supply figures were first reported by the Washington Post and come from part of a database compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracked the fate of every opioid pill sold in America, from manufacturers to individual pharmacies.

A federal court in Ohio released the data this week as part of a massive consolidated court case against nearly two-dozen opioid makers and distributors, brought by nearly 2,000 cities, towns, and counties. The local governments allege that the opioid companies conspired to saturate the country with the potent painkillers to soak up billions in profits. The companies deny the allegations, arguing generally that they were serving the needs of patients.

According to an analysis of the data by the Post, just three companies made 88% of the opioid pills: SpecGx, Actavis Pharma, and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals. Purdue Pharma ranked fourth, making 3% of the pills. Just six companies distributed 75% of the pills: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS, and Walmart.

The Post also noted that the distribution was concentrated in certain places, finding that West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Nevada had the top pill-per-person-per-year rates of all states, ranging from 66.5 to 54.7. West Virginia, which had the highest distribution rate, also had the highest opioid death rate during this period.

But certain rural areas were also hard hit, with Norton, Virginia, receiving 306 pills per person per year and Mingo County, West Virginia, receiving 203.

While the local governments suing the companies have had access to this data during the litigation, it was only released to the public after the Washington Post and HD Media, publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail of West Virginia, sued and waged a year-long legal battle. The drug companies had fought to keep the data hidden from the public, arguing that it revealed “transactional data” that could be used by competitors. The Department of Justice also argued against the release, saying it could compromise investigations.

A three-judge panel sided with the media organizations last month. This past Monday, US District Judge Dan Polster removed a protective order allowing the release of part of the DEA’s database, called Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System, or ARCOS. Data from years beyond 2012 are still being withheld to protect the companies and DOJ investigations.

From 1999 to 2017, nearly 400,000 people in the US died from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just three drug makers and six distributors were behind the flood. And I am sure you know people that were dramatically hurt by this epidemic. Killing for billions of dollars. A terrifying evidence of today’s pharmaceutical companies.

[CDC, Washington Post, Ars Technica]

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9 COMMENTS

  1. dont you need a script from a DOCTOR to get these? they are the gatekeepers. if drs are writing the scripts, how is supply for those scripts the drug company’s fault?

    • Blather – there is PLENTY that can be wrong which is why chronic pain sufferers need them. If “nothing is wrong,” why do I and plenty of others with chronic pain suffer already before using opioids? What do you propose to do to handle severe chronic pain? I don’t see any constructive alternative mentioned in your post.

  2. Do some basic research people. There is NO opioid epidemic. The statistics are totally manipulated. Do people know that when a street heroin junkie shoots up, that drug is metabolized in the body into morphine. If that junkie OD’ s and dies, guess what: they lump that overdose into the same opioid overdose category as someone who has chronic pain and has been taking hydrocodone responsibly. I believe deaths from Lyrica and gabapentin are lumped into “opioid” deaths. When you conduct a proper statistic, it turns out that about 4,000 or 5,000 people a year die from legitimate prescription opioids. Over 30,000 people die in car accidents and tens of thousands die from alcohol. If you want to demonize prescription opioids, then you cause more deaths. Take time to read pain blogs where veterans have committed suicide because their pain medication has been taken away and they can no longer function. Take time to research about all the suicides that result from antidepressants. What you guys are basically doing is protesting lightning storms that kill people instead of bringing to light the approximately 4,000 babies a DAY that are aborted or the deaths from DUI’s and alcoholism? Those are WAY bigger issues. If you’re going to protest something, get the facts straight first.

    • Exactly, Jen. I think a lot of the articles getting passed around the internet are bent on taking all relief away from chronic pain sufferers with a view towards eventually calling for their deaths as being “unproductive” members of society.

    • Jen is correct. Having been the medical director of an in house detox and methadone clinic, 75 bed detox. I was surprised that most people can stop the narcotic and no withdrawal effects occur. To get addicted to a narcotic, a person has to work at it. Like taking the narcotic many times per day, for months, if not more than a year.
      The push for the discussion on opioid habits and over use, is brought on by the authoratative people that are senators, congressmen, mayors, poilce cheifs, leaders, why? Because they sell black market drugs and they want people that are not in the know to believe that drugs are the evil scurge. But it is these authorataive people making amillion dollars per week, and paying a quarter mill a week to get low lifes to do the dirty work. How do you think that these people get into office and in a few years they are all millionairs. Because they get involved with the black market drug trade, and the authoratative people, make sure that the laws stay in place and the lies are kept going because most people have no idea.
      The solution is to legalize all drugs and yes, I mean all. In a few years, very few people will be taking drugs, because drugs are more trouble than they are help.
      And if legal, the problem will go away. But again, since most people know very little about the drugs, they believe these evil authoratative people that are in control and do not bother to seek the truth. If the drugs are all legal, would you take them? Maybe some experimental use, but the use would go way down.
      Now tat cannabis is legal, the use is decreasing, which surprised many people. Most people like being normal. People tathat take drugs typically have an illness of some sort.

  3. If the drug companies can’t get you with vaccines, they’ll get you with pain pills. But that assumes that you haven’t already been suckered by the most abused drug of all, alcohol.

  4. I have gout and damn well need pain killers.
    I have never abused it and don’t use it when I don’t need it.
    When I have a gout attack not even the medicine will quench the pain and it takes weeks for the pain to fully subside and lingers for a month.
    The pain pills don’t even subside the pain, I only hurt with a smile on my face.
    The pain is excruciating and I would rather give that to my enemy instead of shooting him.
    It would be more of a cruel thing to do.
    At times I don’t have pain pills and when the gout attack comes I’ll make a parameter of 10 feet around me and anything that crosses over will get shot, even the wind.
    Now these idiots who abuse it makes it harder to get the pain killers when I need it.
    The preventive medicine I take works but I live in Hawaii a melting pot of diverse ethnic backgrounds and with that all types of foods are available.
    Now Monsanto is here growing their contaminated shit and the food gets worse by the day.
    People demonstrated against Monsanto but that’s all it was get informed demonstration after that it’s back to work or school or whatever you were doing.
    Now we have our Whole Foods store removing the GMO label and I know Monsanto and it’s evil tribe had something to do with it.
    With Monsanto, The Fukushima radiation, Chemtrails, and acid rain, our soil is condemned along with the local livestock.

  5. Re: Opioids: While I can appreciate many people abuse these drugs, I frankly am very weary of the constant slam against using them and the firms and doctors that make and prescribe them. As a chronic pain sufferer for many years, I find them a great supplement to the paltry pain killing levels of over the counter pain relievers that barely work at all. All I, and many other chronic pain sufferers, want is to get to zero pain like many other people. Many of the now super-restrictive laws enacted and being proposed are promulgated by people who have never experienced chronic severe pain themselves, and never had to help loved ones deal with it up close and personal. Yes, I know some abuse pain meds and get hooked on them. But it is very possible to use them and not get hooked. I just wish for one month people wanting to remove them from being used hardly at all had to endure what those of us with chronic unrelenting pain face every second of our lives. Maybe then they would get woke and take a more balanced approach.

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