New Study Illuminates Big Pharma’s Role in Perpetuating the Opioid Crisis

Breaking News Opioid Crisis news flyer on desk

For the first time, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has a database tracking the path of all pills sold, nationwide, between manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies. According to data The Washington Post, between 2006 and 2012, billions of prescription opioids flooded the U.S. market. The total number? 76 billion opioid pills. That means each American adult and child could have 36 pills each year. Many people blame this influx for fueling the out-of-control opioid crisis that claimed nearly 100,000 lives from opioid overdoses. This newly released information has shone light on the fact that thousands of companies are touched by the opioid manufacturers, distributors, and even pharmacies.

The effects of this are still seen today. This surge of highly potent pills inundating the market could be responsible for the influx of opioid addicts and opioid overdose deaths; although, the drug manufacturers claim they only worked to supply the needs of patients with a legitimate need for narcotic painkillers. There is a more cynical viewpoint of their motivations, though: That the drug manufacturers wanted to turn a profit for their own callous reasons rather than help chronic pain sufferers. Of the 380 million transactions between 2006 to 2012, three-quarters of the total opioid pill shipments to pharmacies were oxycodone and hydrocodone pills.

These records show how legal pain pills clearly fueled the prescription opioid epidemic and caused the deaths of tens of thousands. Of all the top pill distributors, 75% came from 6 distributors, including McKesson Corporation, Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS, and Walmart. This enormous influx of pills caused drugs to reach the streets, in spite of the red flags that pills were being sold in violation of federal law and then sold on the black market.

Suspicions abound that drug companies not only failed to report any suspicious orders, but did so purposely to maximize their profits, even as hundreds of lawsuits piled up against them. In fact, opioid litigation is currently higher than tobacco litigation was in the 1980s, which results in a $246 billion settlement over 25 years. The good news it, there is hope that these reports and the transparency of pill manufacturing and distribution will lead to increased accountability among those responsible for directly fueling the opioid crisis.

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