PACIFIC COUNTY — Pacific was fourth among Washington’s 39 counties in oxycodone and hydrocodone sales per person in the years when nationwide overuse of pain pills reached deadly proportions.
Nearly 10.2 million prescription pain pills were supplied in Pacific County between 2006 and 2012, enough for 68 pills per person per year, according to federal Drug Enforcement Administration data obtained by the Washington Post after a year-long court fight.
“These records provide an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths during the seven-year time frame ending in 2012,” the Post reported last week. Nationwide, more than 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed. (The Post analysis did not include other opioid pain drugs, such as morphine.)
Locally, this period largely coincides with Dr. Brandon Adams’ longtime practice in Long Beach, ending in suspension of his medical license in December 2011. The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission cited numerous examples of improper prescribing, including ceasing to keep records of his prescriptions and issuing prescriptions without conducting consultations with patients. Despite these allegations — and others involving sexual improprieties with pain patients — Adams was permitted to voluntarily surrender his medical license in 2012 due to his failing health.
Disproportionate quantities of pain pills were sold in most coastal counties of Washington and Oregon, at least in part due to the large number of retired and disabled working people who settle near the ocean. In Washington, Clallam County at the north end of the Olympic Peninsula had the state’s highest number of pills per person per year, 76.6. Joining Clallam and Pacific in the state’s top five were Pend Oreille (73.9), Asotin (70.8) and Cowlitz (65.1).
In Oregon, Curry County on the south coast with 83.6 per person was highest in the state, closely followed by neighboring Josephine County with 79.4. Clatsop County — just south of Pacific County on the coast — had Oregon’s seventh-highest average number of pills per person, 69.6. About 18 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were provided in Clatsop County during the seven years.
Because of their close proximity and due to retail buying patterns, some Pacific County pill prescriptions were filled at Clatsop County pharmacies. Overall, Thrifty Payless/Rite Aid in Warrenton sold 2.85 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills in seven years.
Peninsula Pharmacies in Long Beach sold 2.64 million, followed by Fred Meyer in Warrenton with 2.53 million. South Bend Pharmacy and Thrifty Payless/Rite Aid in Seaside each sold about 2.25 million.
Most pain pills sold in Pacific and Clatsop counties were manufactured by SpecGx LLC, with a total of more than 15 million pills over the seven years. Cardinal Health was the top distributor in Pacific County, with about 7.5 million sales, and McKesson Corp. was tops in Clatsop, with 7.22 million.
Utah’s Carbon County outstripped all others in the West for pills distributed per person — 105 a year during the seven years of the database.
Many counties stretching from West Virginia to northern Alabama comprise a notorious hot spot for over-prescribing, but Charleston County, South Carolina was worst, with an average of more 248 pills per person per year.