Nearly 24 million prescription pain pills were “supplied” to Imperial County from 2006-12, according to an online database of federally compiled information available through a link on the Washington Post website.
The Post and the Charleston (W.V.) Gazette-Mail won access to the information compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration through a federal lawsuit. The database tracked every pain pill sold in the U.S. from 2006-12. It was released to the papers July 19. Data from others years was not released by the court.
The Post then created an access portal and placed it on its website homepage, https://www.washingtonpost.com/.
The database, which sorts the pills by drug manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies that sold them, shows the 23,887,210 pain pills were enough for 20 pills per person per year in Imperial County from 2006-12.
The five county pharmacies distributing the most prescription pain pills were: Walgreens, El Centro, 2,256,160; Desert Medical Pharmacy, El Centro, 2,188,900; Thrifty Payless, El Centro, 2,139,780; Thrifty Payless, Brawley, 1,737,460; and The Vons Company, El Centro, 1,401,130.
The newspapers’ effort to obtain the data comes amid reports that as an opioid addiction epidemic swarmed the nation, often in rural areas, some in the pharmaceutical industry, from manufacturers to local pharmacies, knew excessive amounts of highly addictive prescription painkillers were reaching the populace.
“The Post believes this is a critically important set of data, which is why we are making it public and accessible to readers and other journalists,” a statement on the Post website reads. “We think there are hundreds of stories within this data set and need your help to understand what it means to you and your community.”
A Post story also released July 19 includes emails in which drug company officials enthusiastically discuss the shipping of more opioid pills and knew many people were addicted to them. It was also on the Post website.