DEA Data: U.S. Saturated with 76 Billion Opioid Pills Over Nearly a Decade’s Time

PillsNewly released Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data shows how between 2006 and 2012 drug companies manufactured and distributed more than 76 billion opioid pills across the country.

The DEA’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System (ARCOS) follows the path of each pill from the manufacturer to the local pharmacy and includes detailed information such as drug codes, DEA registration numbers, seller and buyer contact, transaction dates, and dosages of the drugs.

The Washington Post’s investigative reporters analyzed and reported on the previously undisclosed ARCOS data which was recently released by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster who is presiding over the lawsuit by nearly 2,000 state and local government against prescription drug manufacturers and distributors for their role in creating the opioid crisis.

Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by The Washington Post. Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

Purdue Pharma, which the plaintiffs allege sparked the epidemic in the 1990s with its introduction of OxyContin, its version of oxycodone, was ranked fourth among manufacturers with about 3 percent of the market.

The volume of the pills handled by the companies skyrocketed as the epidemic surged, increasing about 51 percent from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. By contrast, doses of morphine, a well-known treatment for severe pain, averaged slightly more than 500 million a year during the period.

The article notes that plaintiffs to the lawsuit believe the data reveals a “road map” of the spread of the crisis and exactly what the companies knew about the distribution of the drugs including red flags of violations of federal law.

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76 billion opioid pills: Newly released federal data unmasks the epidemic (The Washington Post)