Data shows U.S. saturated with pain pills

Federal drug data shows that more than 100 billion doses of pain pills were shipped nationwide from 2006 through 2014

New data concerning the opioid epidemic shows just how saturated the U.S. is with pain pills.

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Federal drug data shows that more than 100 billion doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone were shipped nationwide from 2006 through 2014, according to The Washington Post.

That is 24 billion more doses of the highly addictive pain pills than previously known.

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The data, which traces the path of every pain pill shipped in the United States, shows the extent to which opioids flooded the country as deaths from the epidemic continued to climb over nine years.

The Washington Post and the company that owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia waged a year-long fight to obtain information covering a six-year period collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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That covered 76 billion pills.

Add in data from 2013 and 2014 brings the total to 100 billion.

In tracing the path of pills from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies across the country, six companies distributed the vast majority of the pain pills, according to The Post.

McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Walgreens, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart accounted for 76 percent of the oxycodone and hydrocodone pills that were shipped between 2006 and 2014.

Three manufacturers still accounted for 85 percent of the pills: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallin­ckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

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In October, several companies reached a $260 million settlement with two Ohio counties. The remaining lawsuits are pending.

The companuis blamed the opioid epidemic on overprescribing by doctors, and on customers who abused the drugs. The companies also have said they were working to supply the needs of patients with legitimate prescriptions desperate for pain relief.

The new data further confirms the states that were flooded with the most opioids per person: West Virginia with 66.8 pills per person per year, Kentucky with 63.6, South Carolina with 60.9 and Tennessee with 59.

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West Virginia also had the highest prescription opioid death rate during the nine-year period.From 2006 through 2014, more than 130,000 Americans died from prescription opioids.