Interactive map of DEA database makes it easy to spot major sources of pain pills in 2006-12; Ky. had No. 1, and 18 of top 100

Screenshot of Post map shows how to get individual pharmacy data. Added to screenshot are Ky. towns with pharmacies in top 100 of pain pills per person per county in 2006-12. Click on it for larger version; click here for interactive version.

Last month The Washington Post published a story and interactive map about the Drug Enforcement Administration database that reveals the distribution patterns of opioid painkillers from 2006 through 2012, when the opioid epidemic was surging. The first map showed the number of pills by county; a new map makes them easily visible by store, and the Post did a story about the data, with a list of the pharmacies that handed out the most pills per person in its county.

Shearer Drug of Albany, Ky., ranked first in the nation, dispensing 6,778,550 pills, or enough to give every person in surrounding Clinton County 96 pills a year. No. 4 was Booneville Discount Drugs in Owsley County, with 2,850,040 pills, or 86 per person per year. No. 6 was Glenn’s Apothecary of Marion, with 5,171,800 pills, 80 per year for each person in Crittenden County.

Other Kentucky pharmacies in the top 50, their total pills and the amount per year for each resident of the county were: No. 16, Value-Med of Paintsville, 10,449,480, the third largest number of pills in the country (64); No. 18, Capps Pharmacy of Burkesville, 3,106,950 (64); No. 21, Hometown Pharmacy of Hyden, 4,935,500 (61); No. 22, Three Forks Apothecary of Beattyville, 3,307,670 (61); No. 25, Prescription Center of Morgantown, 5,128,760 (57); No. 26, Medicine Cabinet Pharmacy, Paintsville, 9,183,940 (56); No. 38, Mount Vernon Drug in Rockcastle County, 5,848,170 (49); and No. 42, Lyon Drug Store, Eddyville, 2,835,670 (48).

Those in the second 50, ranked by pills per person in the county, were No. 57, PEJ Inc. of Jackson in Breathitt County, 4,317,280 (43); No. 67, Rice Drugs of Beaver Dam, 6,716,610 (40); No. 75, Campton Pharmacare, 1,983,500 (39); No. 84, Weathers Drugs of Elkton, 3,227,880 (38); No. 94, Beringer Drug Center of Warsaw, 2,144,650 (37); Community Drug of Manchester, 5,691,230 (36); and No. 100, Evans Drug Co. of Fulton, 1,751,200 (36).

“While the crisis makes it clear that many of the opioids were diverted to the black market, the DEA database obtained by the Post does not track the pills after they reach the pharmacies,” the newspaper reports. “There are legitimate reasons small pharmacies can have outsize volumes, including proximity to surgical centers.” In Albany, Shearer Drug is next door to the building that once housed the office of former physician Michael Cummimngs; he was sentenced July 24 to 30 months in prison and fined $400,000 after pleading guilty to 13 counts of illegally prescribing controlled substances, the Clinton County Newsreports.

In a separate story, the Post reports that journalists in more than 30 states have published more than 90 stories based on the data, and uses an example from Pikeville: “In Kentucky, where the flow of pain pills left behind a trail of deaths from opioids, the DEA data didn’t come as a surprise to Russ Cassady, regional editor of the Appalachian News-Express. But he was still shocked by the magnitude of the figures. From 2006 to 2012, there were 66,785,120 prescription pain pills supplied to Pike County — 146 pills per person per year.” Maria Sanchez Diez quotes Cassady: “We knew the numbers were bad, but it definitely gives some perspective,” Cassady said. “The epicenter of the map you guys posted, the deep red counties, that’s us.” The story also notes coverage by The News Journal of Corbin and Lexington’s WKYT-TV, as well as The Paintsville Herald‘s Aaron Nelson, which was previously reported by Kentucky Health News.

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