Recent data prompts legal action, highlights Florida’s role in opioid epidemic

Local News

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Recent data compiled by the Drug Enforcement Agency and published by the Washington Post is shedding light on the details of Florida’s part in the national opioid crisis.

The database is the first of its kind to be made public. It tracks nearly 380 million opioid-related transactions between 2006 and 2012, when nearly 100,000 people across the United States died as part of the country’s opioid epidemic.

According to the new data, major corporations were only making the situation direr, supplying more than 5,556,553,070 prescriptions pain pills throughout the Sunshine State.

More than 1.4 billion of those pills were distributed by Walgreen Co. and 2.2 billion were manufactured by Actavis Pharma.

Across the Tampa Bay area – comprised of Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties – all received more opioids per person than the national average. Hernando County, at nearly twice the national average, ranked second in the state for the highest number of pills per person.

Tampa alone received 410 million pills during the seven-year time frame, which is unsurprising considering the state’s second most amount of pills went to PMSI, LLC, which is located in Tampa.

In 2017 – the same year that then-Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency around the opioid epidemic – one person was overdosing in Pasco County once every three days.

Last May, Florida’s then-Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a lawsuit against more than eight opioid distributors, including Purdue Pharma – the maker of OxyContin and Dilaudid, Endo Pharmaceuticals – the creator of Percocet and Opana and Johnson & Johnson and some of its subsidiaries – which make Duragesic and Tapentadol.

According to the suit, “Opioids caused 5,725 deaths in Florida in 2016, an average of more than 15 Floridian deaths every day from opioids. Opioids could kill as many as 500,000 people in the United States over the next ten years.”

The lawsuit also highlighted Pasco County’s problem with opioids, stating that in 2016, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office administered opioid addiction treatment to nearly 2,000 inmates.

You can read the entire lawsuit here.

Bondi added CVS and Walgreens to the lawsuit in November.

On Sunday, Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in hopes of settling litigation with various states and governments.

Lakeland-based grocer Publix was also among the state’s top distributors, ranking sixth behind Walmart.

Last year, Florida became one of two dozen states that passed legislation related to prescription of opioids.

While laws vary from state to state, the law requires that health providers check the state’s prescription drug monitoring program before writing a new prescription for most controlled substances for patients who are 16 and older.

In the report compiled by The Washington Post, more than 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocode pills were distributed during those seven years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 45 people die nationally each day because of opioid overdoses.

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