The origin, evolution and astonishing scale of America’s catastrophic opioid epidemic just got a lot clearer. The drug industry — the pill manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers — found it profitable to flood some of the most vulnerable communities in America with billions of painkillers. They continued to move their product, and the medical community and government agencies failed to take effective action, even when it became apparent that these pills were fueling addiction and overdoses and were getting diverted to the streets.
This has been broadly known for years, but this past week, the more precise details became public for the first time in a trove of data released after a legal challenge from The Washington Post and the owner of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia.
The revelatory data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration and its Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS). It tracks the movement of every prescription pill in the country, from factory to pharmacy.
“This really shows a relationship between the manufacturers and the distributors: They were all in it together,” said Jim Geldhof, a retired DEA employee who spent his 43-year career working on drug diversion cases and is now a consultant for plaintiffs in a massive lawsuit against the drug industry. “We’re seeing a lot of internal stuff that basically confirms what we already knew. It just reinforces the fact that it was all about greed, and all about money.”
Sure, countless lives have been destroyed and communities ravaged, but on the other hand Jacqueline Sackler’s son might have a slightly harder time getting into Andover to I’d say if anything the industry needs to be further deregulated.