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When (and where) opioids have been spread across Washington

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Newly-revealed data shows the massive scale that prescription opioids were made available in Washington as an epidemic gripped communities across the nation.

Perception, reality, and the face of addiction

The Washington Post reports that recently-published data being used in lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies shows where opioid pills were distributed during the rise of the epidemic, and how much. Looking at maps prepared by The Post, a correlation can be seen between areas where prescription opioids were more prevalent, and the rise in opioid deaths.

For Washington, 1,858,634,809 prescription pills were provided to patients between 2006 and 2012, distributed by McKesson Corporation (650,515,580 pills) and SpecGx LLC (958,673,658 pills). Sources that provided the most pills were located along the I-5 corridor between Longview and Seattle.

Locations where more pills were given out between 2006-2012:

  • Evergreen Pharmaceutical, Tukwila: 16,093,430 pills
  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, Renton: 12,437,600 pills
  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, Olympia: 10,675,400 pills
  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the NW, Longview: 9,872,770 pills
  • Assured Pharmacies Northwest, Bellevue: 8,618,400 pills

The data is also broken down by county. Clallam County got it the worst during that period, with 76.6 pills provided per person each year. In fact, rural counties across the state were hit hardest.

  • Clallam County: 76.6 pills per person, each year
  • Pend Orielle County: 73.9 pills per person, each year
  • Asotin County: 70.8 pills per person, each year
  • Pacific County: 68.5 pills per person, each year
  • Cowlitz County: 65.1 pills per person, each year
  • Lewis County: 62.8 pills per person, each year
  • Garfield County: 61.6 pills per person, each year
  • Stevens County: 60.8 pills per person, each year

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In the more densely populated Puget Sound region, far fewer pills were distributed:

  • Skagit County: 49.5 pills per person, each year
  • Snohomish County: 45.6 pills per person, each year
  • King County: 34.5 pills per person, each year
  • Pierce County: 38.6 pills per person, each year
  • Kitsap County: 35.7 pills per person, each year
  • Thurston County: 37.1 pills per person, each year

Various lawsuits have been filed against different companies involved in opioids, from distribution to manufacturing. Washington state has sued three distributors. Snohomish County has sued both distributors and manufacturers. Seattle has also sued drug companies.

The data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which tracked the distribution of pills. More data is available for 2013 and 2014, but a judge overseeing a lawsuit has not decided on whether to release that information. The DEA and defendants in the lawsuits opposed the release of the data.

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