The pharmacy at Hawthorne’s Safeway store took delivery of more than 2 million opioid pills between 2006-2012, landing it in the top 15 of pharmacies nationwide in opioid pills prescribed per person.
According to a database compiled by the Washington Post, an average of some 1,000 opioid pills a day were dispensed at the pharmacy over the seven-year period. That was, the database said, enough to supply every resident of Mineral County with 64 opioid pills a year and ranks 11th in the nation in average number of opioid pills dispensed per resident each year during that time.
The statistics were compiled by the newspaper from federal figures that track all opioid pill sales.
While the numbers are startling, Mineral County Sheriff Randy Adams says opioid use in the area is declining, partly because of better coordination with agencies working with drug users but also because the number of prescriptions per resident is down.
Adams admits that the amount of prescriptions was “out of control” but has now been waylaid because of stricter enforcement of prescription dispensing. Law enforcement departments use a program called OD Mapping to help track overdose spikes throughout states and counties.
“We know of a few overdoses throughout the year, but nothing that has been officially reported,” he explained.
According to the records, there were prescriptions filled for 2,175,110 prescription pain pills at the pharmacy during the period from 2006-12. In 2010, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 150.4 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 people in the area.
A pharmacy representative was contacted by the Independent-News but declined comment, citing patient privacy laws.
In looking over the data from the CDC, Adams said in 2016, when he took office, the number had dropped to 120.5 prescriptions per 100 people. He credits not only his department for “making it uncomfortable for those who abuse prescription drugs” but also to new laws which make it harder for both the patient and doctor when it comes to opioid prescriptions.
“In 2017, the numbers for Mineral County dropped even further with only 103.5 prescriptions per 100 people being prescribed which is a drastic decrease,” he explained. Sheriff Adams notes that from 2012 to 2017 his department has seen a 31 percent decrease and is anticipating that 2018 numbers will be even lower.
“It is not only because of my department that these numbers come down, we really need to give credit to other organizations in Mineral County that go out of their way to help combat the opioid crisis,’’ he said. “Community Chest under the direction of Sarah Dillard, who come into our jail and speak to the inmates and give them advice and resources when they are released to get to those addicted to opioids the help they need with substance abuse. But it doesn’t stop there. Nancy [Rutherford] at Nevada Rural Clinics who takes the time to find programs that fit the addiction and sets up help wherever she can find it for her patients as well as the churches in the county that noticed the need to help and allow such programs as Celebrate Recovery to work and be successful. All of these things make the difference. We need to get these people the help they deserve.”
The Post analysis of the database shows that America’s largest drug companies distributed 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills across the country between 2006 and 2012 as the nation’s deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control.
The national death rate from opioids was 4.6 deaths per 100,000 residents. But the counties that had the most pills distributed per person experienced more than three times that rate on average. Thirteen of those counties had an opioid death rate more than eight times the national rate, according to the government data. Seven of them were in West Virginia.