The number of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills prescribed annually in Wilkes County steadily dropped from 2009 to 2012, according to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration database recently made public.
However, the average number of these opioid pain pills prescribed per person in Wilkes from 2006-2012 exceeded the state average.
This data and more is detailed for individual counties and states in the DEA’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS), which became public as a result of a court order secured by the Washington Post and HD Media, publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia. The federal government and the drug industry fought the release of the information for a year.
The database tracks the path of every pain pill sold in the United States, from every manufacturer and distributors to every pharmacy.
The Washington Post reported that it sifted through nearly 380 million transactions from 2006 through 2012 detailed in the DEA database and analyzed shipments of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, which account for three-quarters of opioid pill shipments to pharmacies.
Based on this analysis, the Post reported that 26.7 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were prescribed in Wilkes from 2006 to 2012, which was enough for 55 pills per person per year based on the county’s population.
Among adjoining counties, oxycodone and hydrocodone pills prescribed per person based on totals prescribed in that period and populations were 80 in Surry, 62 in Caldwell, 42 in Ashe, 50 in Iredell, 39 in Alleghany, 30.7 in Watauga, 35.5 in Yadkin and 39 in Alexander.
The number of these pills prescribed each year in Wilkes during the target period peaked at 4.1 million in 2009 and dropped each year after that until it reached its lowest point at 3.9 million in 2012. The number of pills prescribed continuously increased in most other counties in that period.
Among the 26.9 million pills prescribed in Wilkes, SpecGx LLC manufactured 10.76 million and McKesson Corp. distributed 9.55 million.
The other top distributors of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills sold in Wilkes then were Cardinal Health, 4.13 million pills; N.C. Mutual Wholesale Drug Co., 3.67 million pills; Walgreen Co., 2.99 million pills; and CVS, 2.56 million pills.
The other top manufacturers of pills sold in Wilkes then were Actavis Pharma Inc., 8.63 million; Par Pharmaceutical, 4.53 million; Purdue Pharmaceutical, 1.05 million; and Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC, 417,900 pills.
All of these manufacturers and distributors are among companies named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by Wilkes County government except Actavis-Pharma, Amneal Pharmaceuticals and Par Pharmaceutical. The suit seeks compensation for costs resulting from opioid addiction in Wilkes. Similar suits have been filed by local governments nationwide.
The suits filed by Wilkes County and other local governments claim companies named as defendants committed offenses as part of ongoing criminal organizations involving the manufacture, distribution and sales of prescription opioids.
The data made available by the Washington Post lists the pharmacies in each county that sold the most oxycodone and hydrocodone pills from 2006 through 2012.
In Wilkes, they were Brame Huie Pharmacy LLC at West Park, North Wilkesboro, 4.15 million pills; Blue Ridge Pharmacy at Midtown Plaza, North Wilkesboro, 3.22 million pills; Walgreen Co., D Street, North Wilkesboro, 3.08 million pills; Millers Creek Pharmacy on Boone Trail, 3 million pills; and CVS Pharmacy, North Wilkesboro, 2.6 million pills. The report didn’t specify if this is the CVS on N.C. 18 North or on D Street.
Dr. Cathy Huie, president of Brame Huie Pharmacy, said Brame Huie sold so many more hydrocodone and oxycodone pills than other pharmacies in Wilkes from 2006 through 2012 largely because it provided all prescription medication for patients in Wilkes Regional Medical Center’s Hospice program then. The majority of people in Hospice care are cancer patients. Hospice care in Wilkes is divided among more providers now.
Huie noted that Brame Huie was the first pharmacy in Wilkes to offer Naloxone, which saves lives by countering the effects of opioid overdose.