Records kept by the US Drug Enforcement Administration show that 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were shipped to US pharmacies from 2006 to 2012. The annual number swelled by more than 50 percent during that period of time even as the drug-related deaths climbed, Presstv Reported.
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 with the Associated Press.
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.”
The newly released information shows in detail the flow of drugs from manufacturers to communities. West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Nevada all received more than 50 pills for every man, woman and child each year.
“It’s like being on the front lines of a war every day,” said Joe Engle, sheriff of Perry County, Kentucky, which received 175 pills per person per year. “Our people here in eastern Kentucky have been taken advantage of by these pharmaceutical companies. It’s one of the worst things you can do to a society, to a people. And we’re suffering.”
Nearly every state has filed a lawsuit, and most of them have focused on Purdue Pharma. Many local governments have also sued other drugmakers, distribution companies and pharmacies.
The federal report comes as over 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 US history.
Prescription and illegal opioids such as heroin and fentanyl have been factors in more than 430,000 deaths in the US since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From 2006 to 2012, annual opioid deaths rose from under 18,000 a year to more than 23,000. Since then, overall opioid deaths in the US have doubled, reaching about 46,000.