Drug companies shipped billions of painkillers to communities across America without proper oversight between 2006 and 2012, according to newly released data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), highlighting the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the opioid epidemic as it faces a possible legal reckoning similar to that which befell the tobacco companies in the 1990s.
In all, 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were shipped over that seven-year period, according to the DEA and its Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS). That data was obtained by the Washington Post and HD Media, which owns newspapers in West Virginia. The Post published the data after a federal judge overseeing litigation against drug companies in Cleveland agreed to release the information to the public.
The data shows that most pills per capita went to rural, working-class communities in the Appalachian region. Some communities, including several in West Virginia and Kentucky, received more than 100 pills each year for every person who lived in the community.