Thursday, August 8, 2019

El Paso County received more than 125 million prescription opioid pills in seven years, Washington Post database shows

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 8:38 AM

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Last month, The Washington Post published a trove of federal data on opioids on its website, making the data accessible through an interactive database.

"The Washington Post sifted through nearly 380 million transactions from 2006 through 2012 that are detailed in the [Drug Enforcement Administration’s] database and analyzed shipments of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, which account for three-quarters of the total opioid pill shipments to pharmacies," the national news publication explains.

The database breaks down by state and county the amount of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills shipped in those seven years — a timeframe within which, the Post notes, prescription opioids led to the deaths of almost 100,000 people.

(While a figure for El Paso County in that same timeframe was not immediately available online, opioids claimed the lives of 78 people in the county in 2018, and 92 the year prior.)

The database also includes data on the largest suppliers, and the pharmacies that received the largest numbers of pills.

The Post found that three companies manufactured about 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, Actavis Pharma and Par Pharmaceutical.

We reviewed the Post's data for Colorado and included some of the findings below.

  • Colorado pharmacies received 1,022,073,725 prescription pain pills between 2006 and 2012. Of those, 46 percent were manufactured by SpecGx LLC, a subsidiary of global pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt.

  • The Omnicare of New York pharmacy in Golden received the highest number of pills in the state.

  • In El Paso County, pharmacies received 125,820,253 pills — enough for 30 pills per person, per year. About 44 percent of those came from Actavis Pharma Inc., a generic drug manufacturer that later merged with Allergan, a branded drug company, in one of the largest pharmaceutical deals of all time.

  • Walgreen Co. received more pills than any other distributor in the county.

How does El Paso County compare to other, similarly sized counties in Colorado? Denver County, though it has a similar population, received fewer pills than we did — 76,643,537 prescription pain pills, or an average of 18 per person, per year.

In Arapahoe County (the state's third-largest county, after Denver and El Paso), distributors received 99,985,887 pills, or 25 per person, per year.

Pueblo County, which has less than a third of Arapahoe County's population, received 74,629,205 prescription pain pills, or 68 pills per person, per year.

The chart below shows some of the data for Colorado's 10 largest counties. Visit The Washington Post's online database to see data for other counties, and to compare Colorado with the rest of the country.


More than 1,600 cities, counties, states, Native American tribes, labor unions and other entities have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, seeking payback for what they call fraudulent and deceptive marketing that sparked the opioid crisis.


Former state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in Denver District Court last year, and her successor, Phil Weiser, has furthered the state's role in that lawsuit.

Besides Colorado’s lawsuit and others filed in state courts, hundreds more seek compensation in a multi-district federal lawsuit overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. Colorado plaintiffs involved in that case include Huerfano, Pueblo, Jefferson, Conejos and Adams counties, and the cities of Lakewood, Thornton and Brighton.

In El Paso County, however, county commissioners elected to not pursue damages for lives ruined or stolen by addictive painkillers.


That's despite the fact that County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly estimated in April 2018 that his office alone had spent $219,810 in 2017 for autopsies conducted on 102 people whose deaths were related to opioids.

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