Data show many companies contributed to US opioid crisis
Washington (AP, July 17, 2019) — The maker of OxyContin has been cast as the chief villain in the nation’s opioid crisis. But newly released government figures suggest Purdue Pharma had plenty of help in flooding the U.S. with billions of pills even as overdose deaths were accelerating.
Records kept by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration show that 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills — the vast majority of them generics, not brand names — were shipped to U.S. pharmacies from 2006 to 2012.
The annual number swelled by more than 50 percent during that period of time even as the body count climbed. The powerful painkillers flowed faster even after Purdue Pharma was fined $635 million for falsely marketing OxyContin as less addictive than other opioids.
“I think the scale of this is stunning,” Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor who researches opioids, said in an interview.
He also noted that the data shows that the places that received the most drugs per capita are the ones with the most overdoses per capita: “It really looks like wherever you spread the most gas, you get the most fires.”
At the same time, the data illustrates how complicated it could be for the courts to figure out who should be held accountable for the public health disaster. More than 2,000 state, local and tribal governments have sued members of the drug industry in the biggest and possibly most complicated litigation of its kind ever in the U.S.
A federal judge who is overseeing most of the cases and pushing for a settlement ruled this week that detailed drug-shipment data compiled by the DEA should be made public over the industry’s objections.
The judge has not allowed the release of information from 2013 and 2014. But the material unsealed constitutes the most comprehensive picture yet of how the crisis unfolded.
The Washington Post, which along with HD Media, the owner of newspapers in West Virginia, went to court to seek the information, was first to publish the data. Read more.
MATERIALS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Plaintiffs' Omnibus Response to Defendants' Motions filed on Aug. 30, 2018.
Second Amended Complaint filed on April 2, 2018 in Crittenden County Circuit Court.
News Release announcing March 21, 2018 press conference.
News Release announcing April 6, 2018 Arkansas Supreme Court decision.
Watch video from the news conference announcing the lawsuit.
Opioid news conference photos.
Media Coverage of Arkansas Opioid Litigation
State aims to tackle addiction in the courtroom – Arkansas Money & Politics
Attorney: Governments seeking to recover 'probably...billions' from opioid companies – Talk Business & Politics
Arkansas cities, counties sue drug makers over opioid crisis — Associated Press
Other Media Coverage
Opioid-makers gushed dollars to Arkansas doctors — Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Bitter Pill — Arkansas Times
Opioid crisis affects all Americans, rural and urban — U.S. Department of Agriculture
The opioid epidemic: A crisis years in the making — The New York Times
This joint report from National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National League of Cities (NLC) examines how cities and counties can strengthen collaboration with each other and state, federal, private-sector and non-profit partners to tackle the opioid crisis. Several of the recommendations are accompanied by existing local practices from cities and counties. The report also includes recommendations for state and federal officials, who are pivotal partners in local efforts to combat opioid misuse, diversion, overdose and death.