Health & Wellness

Numbers show peak of crisis as opioids glut begins to slow

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Between 2006-2012, Lane County residents purchased more than 128 million opioid pain pills, enough for 52 pills per person (from newborns to seniors) per year. These numbers were obtained by The Washington Post and published on its website.
The data provides an ”unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills” which has resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths during the seven-year time frame ending in 2012, according to The Post.
The paper’s website offers a searchable database that ”shows where the most oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed across the country during that time: more than 76 billion in all.”
In Lane County, the data shows that more than 64 million pills manufactured by SpecGx LLC and more than 53 million distributed by McKesson Corporation made their way here.
The largest retailer of those pills in Lane County during that span is the Bi-Mart at 1521 Mohawk Blvd., Springfield. Nearly 7 million pills were received from manufacturers and distributors at that location alone, according to the database. The combined number for the Springfield and two Eugene-based Bi-Marts totaled nearly 14 million pills during the peak of the crisis.
Brennan Black, a pharmacist and pharmacy manager at HealthMart in Creswell, said he doesn’t doubt the accuracy of the numbers, and points out the most recent data available is almost 10 years old.
The medical community’s perspective on the issue of compassion and pain relief, he said, has begun to change.
”It’s a pendulum effect,” Black said. ”That data might not be the best picture of what’s happening today. We have better tools now to track where pills are going and distribution trends.”
The Chronicle contacted the Bi-Mart store manager for the Mohawk Boulevard pharmacy, who referred all calls to corporate offices in Portland. A voicemail message left with the office’s head of communications was not returned.
Black and Lane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Denham, the latter overseeing the public safety force in Creswell, said various reasons are behind opioid use in our area.
They pointed to things like people throwing away medications that don’t agree with them and the fact that certain pharmacies are ”pain centers,” which could skew the numbers. Limits are in place now on how many pills can be made, distributed and sold.
”It’s tightly regulated now,” Black said. ”They look at projected sales and all kinds of metrics to determine the right number allowed to be produced and sold.”
And Black said the evolution of treating pain continues today.
”We’ve cut production by half since 2012,” he said. ”In the 1990s there was more concern that you weren’t treating people’s pain properly, and that was true. It grew out of compassion. The pendulum will swing back and hopefully, land in a good place.”
The Washington Post’s website, a pay service, has the full database available.

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