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Carter County received nearly 10 million prescription pain pills in six years, unveiled documents show

Almost 10 million prescription pain pills were supplied to Carter County from 2006 to 2012, enough for 49 pills per person per year, according to a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This surge of prescription pain pills fueled the ongoing opioid epidemic, which especially plagues the area of Eastern Kentucky, and resulted in over 100,000 deaths during the six-year timeframe.

The DEA database tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States — from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city.

According to the database: 3,870,480 of the pills in Carter County were distributed by McKesson Corporation and 3,736,000 were manufactured by SpecGx LLC. Additionally, Carter Family Pharmacy in Olive Hill received the highest number of pills: 2,027,270 pills.

8,013,120 prescription pain pills were supplied to Rowan County, 36,819,430 pills to Boyd County and 1,895,240 pills to Elliot County.

Nearly 2 billion prescription pain pills were supplied throughout Kentucky during this time. Paintsville pharmacy Value-Med Inc received the highest number of pills.

An analysis by The Washington Post found six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during the 2006-2012 period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS, and Walmart. Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

The database was made public following a year-long legal battle waged by The Washington Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia.

The 10 biggest opioid prescription distributors along with about a dozen others are being sued in federal court in Cleveland by nearly 2,000 cities, towns and counties alleging that they conspired to flood the nation with opioids, according to The Post.

In turn, the companies have blamed the epidemic on overprescribing by doctors and pharmacies and on customers who abused the drugs. The companies say they were working to supply the needs of patients with legitimate prescriptions desperate for pain relief.

Plaintiffs have long accused drug manufacturers and wholesalers of fueling the opioid epidemic by producing and distributing billions of pain pills while making billions of dollars. The companies have paid more than $1 billion in fines to the Justice Department and Food and Drug Administration over opioid-related issues, and hundreds of millions more to settle state lawsuits

The Washington Post

Additional analysis of the database by The Post included three major findings:

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 1,160 reported opioid-involved deaths in Kentucky—a rate of 27.9 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2017. The average national rate in 2017 was 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.

From 1999-2015, prescription opioids were the underlying cause of drug overdose deaths. the Institute cites. By 2017, the main contributor of opioid-involved deaths shifted to synthetic opioids other than methadone, mainly fentanyl.

The Post has been investigating the opioid epidemic across the county since 2016 and their coverage can be found here.

One Comment

  1. Syndi Chesser Syndi Chesser August 2, 2019

    Solid — and frightening — information to have. Thank you for your reporting — and welcome to Oldham County!

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