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Just three drug makers and six distributors were behind the flood.
Between 2006 and 2012, opioid drugmakers and distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone—highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period.
As the epidemic surged over the seven-year period, so did the supply. The companies increased distribution from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012, a jump of roughly 50%. In all, the deluge of pills was enough to supply every adult and child in the country with around 36 opioid pills per year. Just a 10-day supply can hook 1 in 5 people into being long-term users, researchers have determined.
According to an analysis of the data by the Post, just three companies made 88% of the opioid pills: SpecGx, Actavis Pharma, and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals. Purdue Pharma ranked fourth, making 3% of the pills. Just six companies distributed 75% of the pills: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS, and Walmart.
The Post also noted that the distribution was concentrated in certain places, finding that West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Nevada had the top pill-per-person-per-year rates of all states, ranging from 66.5 to 54.7. West Virginia, which had the highest distribution rate, also had the highest opioid death rate during this period.
But certain rural areas were also hard hit, with Norton, Virginia, receiving 306 pills per person per year and Mingo County, West Virginia, receiving 203.