5.8M pills flooded Addison County over 6 years
ADDISON COUNTY — Following the release of a database that detailed how many opioid pills were distributed per county across the United States last week, records show that more than 5.8 million pills flooded Addison County between 2006-2012.
The news came late last week when the Washington Post publicized a database from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that has recorded all oxycodone and hydrocodone pill transactions in the United States during those six years. The records are from the DEA’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS), an automated recording system for manufacturers and distributors of controlled substances to record orders and sales.
Records from ARCOS show that in the six-year period, more than 5.8 million prescription oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were supplied to county residents. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are the two most prevalent opiates, accounting for three-fourths of all opiate sales in the United States during that period. Of the 5.8 million pills distributed in Addison County, more than 30 percent were manufactured by SpecGx LLC, 27 percent by Actavis Pharma Inc., and 20 percent by Par Pharmaceutical.
Of the pills received in the county, 34.7 percent were distributed by Burlington Drug Company and an equal amount distributed by McKesson Corporation, while 18.8 percent were received by KPH Healthcare Services Inc. at their retail pharmacy, Kinney Drugs in Vergennes.
The four other pharmacies that received the most pills in Addison County were, in order of volume, Kinney Drugs (Middlebury), Marble Works Pharmacy (Middlebury), Maxi Green, Inc. (Bristol), and Porter Health Systems Inc. (Middlebury). Hannaford’s Pharmacy in Middlebury received 264,800 doses of opiates (8th highest in Addison County).
Between 2006 and 2012, Porter Health Systems purchased more than 575,000 opioid pills. Vice President of Communications at Porter Medical Center Ron Hallman responded to questions via email that the hospital and its doctors were doing what they could to serve its patient population well.
“Porter has been a community leader for many years in terms of our Medication Assisted Treatment program,” Hallman wrote. “We are now working with Mountain Health (a Federally Qualified Health Center in Bristol) and others in our community to ensure that the needs of this specific patient population are met in keeping with our mission to improve the health of our community, one person at a time.”
Mountain Health Center in Bristol is federally funded and provides health care to uninsured state residents, and has a Medication Assisted Treatment program for people struggling with drug addictions, including opioid abuse.
“The UVM Health Network is addressing this issue in a very comprehensive and compassionate way throughout the Vermont and Northern New York communities we serve,” Hallman added.
Across the state, McKesson Corporation was the largest distributor (accounting for almost a third of all distribution) and SpecGx LLC was the largest manufacturer. In this time period, Vermont received 123 million pain pills, around 200 per person.
Nationwide, the companies inundated states with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills in those six years. Nearly 2,000 cities, counties and towns are alleging that the companies knowingly flooded their communities with highly addictive painkillers, fueling an epidemic that has killed more than 200,000 people since 1996. The city of St. Albans in Vermont is one of the municipalities that has joined a class-action lawsuit against the companies seeking compensation for the city’s law enforcement and drug-addiction efforts related to the epidemic.
In 2017, the opioid-involved overdose death rate in Vermont was 20 deaths per 100,000 people, 38 percent higher than the national average that year (14.6 deaths per 100,000 people). However, in that year, the opiate prescribing rate was lower than the national average (50.5 written prescriptions per 100 people rather than the national average of 58.7 prescriptions).
Opioid medications have been used since the early 20th Century to treat chronic pain. In 1995, the FDA approved OxyContin for medical use, a move that is now believed to have been a major catalyst for the opioid crisis the country has been in for the past decade.
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