15 percent of pharmacies distributed half of opioids in the U.S.

Four Tennessee pain clinics previously part of an organization accused of defrauding the federal government have abruptly closed./ Source: MGN
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(WYMT) - A federal database tracking every pain pill sold in the U.S. was released in July, which showed where more than 76 billion pills were distributed between 2006 to 2012.

Of those pills, The Washington Post reports about half were distributed by 15 percent of pharmacies in the country.

This was made possible because the DEA relied on drug companies and pharmacies to monitor and report suspicious purchases. The DEA did not check its own database to identify pharmacies buying unusually large amounts of opioids.

The Washington Post compiled a list of 15 pharmacies with the most pills per person, based on county population between 2006 and 2012. On this list is Booneville Discount Drugs in Owsley County, which purchased 2,850,040 pills. That is 86 pills for every person in the county, and more than 70 percent of the pills distributed in the county.

In 2000, the owner, James Fred Carrico, was fined $500 by the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy for failing to properly dispense Percocet. In 2005, he opened Booneville Discount Drugs. Since then, he faced multiple alcohol- or drug-related charges and an audit found failures to maintain inventory records on controlled substances.

Carrico's license was suspended in 2011 but then reinstated in 2013. But his son, Matthew Carrico, said his father stopped working behind the pharmacy counter after 2012 when Matthew took over.

Matthew told the Post his father was a recovering alcoholic and struggled after his wife and mother-in-law were killed in 2009. Still, Matthew defended the amount of prescriptions during his father's time, attributing the high volume of pills to coal miners and other manual laborers who were injured on the job.

Another local pharmacy made it onto the list - Strosnider in Mingo County, West Virginia. This pharmacy had a total of 13,168,350 pills, which is equivalent to 70 pills for every person in the county.

The database also revealed that two pharmacies in Paintsville carried 79 percent of the total opioid pills distributed in Johnson County. These pharmacies are Value-Med Pharmacy and Medicine Cabinet Pharmacy. Between the two, they bought almost 20 million pills containing oxycodone and hydrocodone.

You can read more about the DEA pain pill database here.

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