drugs

More opiate prescriptions were filled in Franklin County from 2006-12 — much higher than the state average. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), 33,403,420 prescription pain pills were doled out by pharmacies and doctors in Franklin County during the seven-year span. That was enough for 47 pills per person per year.

Statewide, there were 1,599,818,545 prescription pain pills supplied to patients. That equals 38 pills per person for the more than 6 million Missouri residents.

The information was released by the DEA and then compiled by the Washington Post, which developed interactive maps showing county by county statistics of prescription opiates supplied to residents.

The information only accounts for oxycodone and hydrocodone, which makes up for three-fourths of all prescription painkillers distributed in the United States. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are commonly referred to by brand names Percocet and Vicodin, respectively.

The Washington Post obtained the information from the federal government as the result of a court order. The Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, waged a yearlong legal battle for access to the database, which the government and the drug industry had sought to keep secret.

Although the data is more than 6 years old, it offers a snapshot of the number of prescription pain pills distributed in specific states and counties at a time when there were fewer restrictions and regulations of the pills.

Prescription opiates are blamed for the rise of heroin use and overdoses nationwide. It is widely accepted that some patients become addicted to pain medication and then move onto more powerful, deadlier drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl. 

The Washington Post reported that the records provide an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the opioid epidemic, which resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths during the seven-year time frame ending in 2012.

The DEA information presents the number of pills, and which pharmacies distributed the most, however, there is no information provided about the doctors who prescribed the drugs.

By the Numbers

Franklin County has the highest pill per person average than all other neighboring counties with the exception of Washington County. From 2006-12, there were 10,476,070 prescription pain pills distributed, averaging enough pills for 60 per day, per year for every resident in Washington County. 

Following is a breakdown of data from other neighboring counties:

Jefferson County — 53,947,853 pills, 35 pills per person, per year;

St. Louis County — 218,775,210 pills, 31 pills per person, per year:

Warren County — 6,341,770 pills, 28 pills per person, per year;

Gasconade County — 4,411,910 pills, 41 pills per person, per year; and

Crawford County — 7,530,870 pills, 43 pills per person, per year.

Companies

The most prescription pills were distributed by a Washington pharmacy, 3,957,380 pills; followed by a pharmacy in St. Clair, 3,586,670; and then two Sullivan pharmacies, 2,516,300 and 2,415,420. 

Rounding out the top five was a pharmacy in Union, which distributed 2,299,500 pills.

The two largest producers of the opiate pain pills for Franklin County were McKesson Corporation, based in Las Colinas, Texas, 8,340,730; and Mallinckrodt’s SpecGx LLC, based in St. Louis, 14,068,600. 

A county-level analysis of the cumulative data shows where the most oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed across the country over that time — more than 76 billion in all.

According to the Post, the volume of the pills handled by the companies climbed as the epidemic surged, increasing 51 percent from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. 

Interactive maps that show state, county, and more data are available at www.washingtonpost.com.