More than 100 billion doses of the highly addictive opioids oxycontin and hydrocodone were distributed across the United States from 2006 to 2014 – 24 billion more than previously reported, according to newly disclosed federal documents. The data offers a startling look at the activity of opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies that created and fueled a national opioid epidemic that killed tens of thousands of Americans and caused billions of dollars of damages to communities across the country.
The data was obtained by The Washington Post and the company that owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, one of the hardest hit areas of the opioid crisis. In July, The Washington Post, after winning an exhaustive year-long fight to get the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data, reported that more than 76 billion opioids had been distributed across the country from 2006 to 2012. The additional two years were revealed by an analytics company crunching the DEA’s opioid distribution numbers for hundreds of cities and counties suing the drug companies for economic damages. That information pushed the total number of pills dumped into the country to more than 100 billion.
Defendants named in the lawsuit – McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Walgreens, AmerisourceBergen, CVS, and Walmart – pushed 76% of the opioids shipped between 2006 and 2014. Mallinckrodt subsidiary SpecGx; Actavis Pharma; and Endo Pharmaceuticals subsidiary Par Pharmaceutical accounted for 85% of the opioids manufactured.
The EPA data comes from the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders Systems, a DEA database that shows which companies shipped what pills and to where. U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster, who is overseeing the opioid multidistrict litigation, had previously released the DEA data from 2006 to 2014, but the information was not allowed for public view. The Washington Post and the Gazette-Mail sued to gain access and, in June, were granted access. Polster released the data through 2012, but kept the last two years to appease drug companies fearful of competition, and the Justice Department, which worried the data release would interfere with investigation efforts.
But Tuesday, a special master assigned to the case issued an order to release the data to the public.
Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by the opioid crisis. Attorneys are also investigating cases of serious injuries and illness – including addiction and overdose – related to opioid use and abuse, as well as cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in babies born to mothers addicted to opioids. For more information, contact Melissa Prickett or Liz Eiland.