The Washington Post has uncovered a secret database detailing the major American drug manufacturers and distributors’ role in creating the opioid crisis. According to documents obtained by the Post, America’s largest drug companies flooded the market with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills between the years of 2006 and 2012.
This database, which was maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is being revealed during the largest civil suit in United States history. The DEA data tracked every single pain pill sold in the U.S., showing the increase of legal pain medication that resulted in almost 100,000 deaths from prescription opioids between 2006 and 2012. The overall death toll rose by 67,000 between 2013 and 2017, with opioid sales jumping from $6.1 billion to $8.5 billion from 2006 to 2012.
75% of all pills on the market were distributed by a mere 6 companies: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart. At the same time, just 3 companies manufactured 88% of all opioids: Mallinckrodt subsidiary SpecGx, Endo Pharmaceuticals subsidiary Par Pharmaceutical, and Actavis Pharma. The company that has received the most national coverage amidst the litigation, Purdue Pharma, introduced OxyContin in the 1990s. However, the Post found they ranked 4th in overall manufacturing, and were responsible for a mere 3% of pills on the market.
Three companies were responsible for distrusting almost half of all opioids in the U.S.: McKesson distributed 14.1 billion, Walgreens, distributed 12.6 billion, and Cardinal Health distributed 10.7 billion. Mallinckrodt’s SpecGx was the leading manufacturer of opioids, putting out almost 28.9 billion pills, equaling roughly 38% of the marketplace.
The 10 aforementioned companies are currently being sued by almost 2,000 towns and cities in a Cleveland federal court, with plaintiffs alleging the drug manufacturers and distributors collaborated in efforts to spread the use of opioids across the nation. The Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System database, or ARCOS, shows these companies knew how many pills were being shipped every year, as well as the specific locations those pills were going to—including cities and towns experiencing a spike in opioid-related deaths.
ARCOS, which the Post had been trying to get ahold of since 2016, shows that West Virginia averaged 66.5 pills per person between 2006 and 2012. Kentucky was right behind that, with 63.3 per person, while South Carolina averaged 58, Tennessee averaged 57.7 and Nevada averaged 54.7 pills per person in the state. The database further shows the devastating effect the crisis had on rural communities, with Norton, Va., averaging 306 pills per person, Martinsville, Va. averaging 242, Mingo County, W.Va. averaging 203, and Perry County, Ky. averaging 175. West Virginia experienced the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the country during this period. Overall, drug companies distributed enough opioids during this time to supply every man, woman, and child in the U.S. with 36 pills a year.
Up until now, settlements between drug companies and plaintiffs were shielded by legal agreements to keep what they call “transactional data” away from public view. Co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, West Virginia attorney Paul T. Farrell Jr., heralded the Post’s release of the ARCOS stats, stating, “The data provides statistical insights that help pinpoint the origins and spread of the opioid epidemic — an epidemic that thousands of communities across the country argue was both sparked and inflamed by opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies.”
Emphasizing that the company has stopped distributing prescription-controlled substances, Phil Caruso, a Walgreens spokesman, released a statement in response to the Post story, claiming that, “Walgreens has been an industry leader in combatting this crisis in the communities where our pharmacists live and work.” Walgreens, does, however, continue to distribute opioids. Other companies mentioned in the story either declined to comment or insisted the Post’s data was misleading.
In May, Purdue Pharma settled a case with the Oklahoma attorney general for $270 million. The over 600 lawsuits consolidated in the Cleveland case are demanding billions of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic.
Hold Dangerous Drug Companies Accountable, Hire an Attorney Today
At Bertram & Graf, L.L.C., our dangerous drugs lawyers have been consistently disgusted by the way drug companies took advantage of the American people to create the opioid crisis. That’s why we are proud to represent clients affected by this epidemic. Our Kansas City opioid lawsuit attorneys have represented plaintiffs from cities, counties, Native American tribes, and hospitals in our efforts to hold pharmaceutical giants responsible for their negligence. If you or a loved one has been negatively impacted by opioids, you may be entitled to compensation. Hire a law firm with a history of getting results for clients, hire Bertram & Graf, L.L.C. today.
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