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Home / US / The Opioid Files: Follow The Post's investigation of the opioid epidemic

The Opioid Files: Follow The Post's investigation of the opioid epidemic



Since 2016, The Washington Post has been investigating the opioid epidemic that has ravaged communities and claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people nationwide since 1996.

This week, a previously unreleased Drug Enforcement Administration database that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States – from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city – what made public. 2,000 cities, towns and counties almost all dozen drug companies conspired to saturate the nation with opioids.

America's largest drug companies distributed 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills across the country between 2006 and 201

2 as the nation's deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control. Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during this period.

The volume of the pills handled by the company climbed as the epidemic surged, increasing 51 percent from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. The states that received the highest levels of pills per year were: West Virginia, Kentucky and South Carolina.

Opioid death rates soared in the communities that were flooded with pain pills. 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 more than three times that rate on average.

More on this coverage

Read more on the Opioid Files [1969006]

• Prosecutors bring charges against Ohio opioid distributor

• A remote Virginia Valley is flooded by opioids

• As lawyers zero in

• Distributors, pharmacies and manufacturers respond to DEA data on opioid sales

Over the past three years, the Post's reporting has led to revelations about those in charge of the tightly regulated prescription supply chain – the manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, doctors and the DEA itself.

The DEA's attempts to halt the flow of the drugs and exposed how companies in the supply chain, even

2016

Frank Younker, retired DEA supervisor in Cincinnati, said he had trouble getting cases appr oved during the opioid epidemic. (Matt McClain / The Washington Post)

In early 2016, The Post began to investigate how hundreds of millions of highly addictive pain pills are being shipped along a tightly regulated pharmaceutical supply chain. Starting in 2006, the DEA launches an aggressive campaign to curb the rising epidemic, targeting companies that distribute distributed pills and the pills and pharmacies that are illegally diverted the drugs to the black market. [194559004] • Thirteen drug distributors should have been published on the black market, according to court records, DEA documents and legal settlements in administrative cases by The Post.

The pharmaceutical companies have hired dozens of officials from the top levels of the DEA during the past decade. The hires came after the DEA launched an aggressive campaign to curb the rising opioid epidemic.

2017

In 2017, reporters dug deeper into the issue, working with "60 Minutes" to explore in greater depth the pressures that have been exerted

At the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in US history, Congress effectively stripped the DEA of its most powerful weapon against large drug companies .

After two years of painstaking investigation, a DEA team was ready to move to the largest opioid distribution case in U.S. Pat. history. Instead, top attorneys at the DEA and the Justice Department wanted to do that, but they did not want to give it to them.

In 2012, cardinal health distributor got word that the DEA was about to take action against a Florida warehouse. Cardinal Washington retained lawyer Jamie Gorelick, who had served as deputy U.S. attorney general from 1994 to 1997.

2018 and 2019

Inmates in the women's cellblock at the Fayette County Jail at Washington Court House, Ohio , a state hit hard by the country's fentanyl crisis. (Salwan Georges / The Washington Post)

In 2018 and 2019, The Post turned its focus on the synthetic painkiller fentanyl, which claimed the lives of about 30,000 that year.

Federal officials failed to grasp how quickly fentanyl was created to rise to heroin use, which in turn created a soaring demand for fentanyl more fatal – wave of the epidemic. In the span of a few years, fentanyl became the drug scourge of our time.

The depth of the fentanyl problem continues to overwhelm the government's response, and the administration has yet to produce a comprehensive strategy that is legally required by Congress. Health policy experts say

Credits: Washington Post Staff


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