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Ohio flooded with prescription painkillers as opioid epidemic grew, data shows

By Eric Heisig • Jul 17, 2019 at 4:00 PM

CLEVELAND — As more and more people became addicted to prescription painkillers, drug companies flooded states across the country with oxycodone, hydrocodone and other painkillers, and Ohio was no exception.

The Buckeye State saw an average of about 40 pain pills per person distributed in the state each year from 2006 to 2012, according to data published by The Washington Post and analyzed by cleveland.com.

The average number of pills per person in Ohio does not appear to be on the highest end of all 50 states, though bordering states Kentucky and West Virginia saw some of the largest number of pills per person during that time period. The Ohio counties that border those states also saw higher average numbers as well, according to The Post.

In Cuyahoga County, more than 29 pain pills were distributed for each resident during each year in that seven-year timeframe. In Summit County, that number was more than 44.

The data obtained by The Post is shows that nearly 380 million transactions resulted in more than 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills being distributed nationwide over the seven-year period. The data illustrates the years that led to a boom of opioid addiction that have plagued almost every corner of the United States, leading to tens of thousands of deaths and addiction in communities that are still struggling to get a handle on the problem.

Six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills, with one of those companies being the Ohio-based Cardinal Health, The Post reported.

The data was part of a database collected and maintained by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to track prescription drug shipments and sales. The DEA turned over data - part of its Automated Reports and Consolidated Ordering System, or ARCOS database - to attorneys representing cities, counties and states who are suing pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland ruled Monday that most of the data turned over as part of the litigation should be made public. The decision came after a federal appeals court said he could not issue a blanket order shielding the data because of general reasons and instead had to give specific reasons why any of the information should stay secret.

The judge declined to allow the release of data for the years 2013 and 2014, which is also in the hands of lawyers in the opioid litigation.

The data shows that the number of prescription painkillers distributed in the U.S. became increasingly higher during the seven-year timetable.

A trial for claims filed by Cuyahoga and Summit counties against drug companies is set for October in federal court in Cleveland.


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