Opioid Crisis: 203 Million Pills Distributed in Santa Clara County Over Seven-Year Period

Doctors prescribed nearly 203 million opioid pills in Santa Clara County from 2006 to 2012, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of federal data.

The study of 380 million prescriptions conducted by the Washington Post offers a county-by-county glimpse of the opioid crisis that swept the nation over the past decade. It shows that in this county alone, doctors prescribed painkillers at a per-capita rate of 16 pills a person over a seven-year period.

That’s far fewer than most parts of the Bay Area, according to the newspaper’s findings. Contra Costa, Napa, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties all saw an influx of prescription painkillers that amounted to more than 30 pills a person for each of the seven years included in the analysis. Alameda County saw the highest in the nine-county region: close to 618 million, or an average of about 60 pills per capita.

In this county, more than 57 million pain pills were distributed by AmerisourceBergen Drug and nearly 76 million were manufactured by Actavis Pharma. Pharmerica Mountain View received the highest number of pills of any competitors in the region.

Statewide during the study’s timeframe, California fielded nearly 8.1 billion pain pills from distributors. Nearly 1.8 billion were distributed by AmerisourceBergen and nearly 2.8 billion were made by Actavis. Topping the list in terms of most pills received throughout the state was the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Livermore.

“The Post is making this data available at the county and state levels in order to help the public understand the impact of years of prescription pill shipments on communities,” the newspaper wrote a story published late last week.

To peruse the WaPo report, click here.

Source: Washington Post


    • > Two pills per year per person doesn’t sound like much of a problem to me.

      Good catch, Mr. Gunn. It adds some very important perspective.

      What is missing from this article is any notion of the distribution of the usage. Does ten percent of the population use ninety percent of the pills?

      > Alameda County saw the highest in the nine-county region: close to 618 million, or an average of about 60 pills per capita.

      Alameda County pill usage is thirty times what is used in Santa Clara County.

      Hmmmm. What’s different about Alameda County?

  1. Great example of lousy journalism. The Wapo article is not freely available. One cannot obtain it without a subscription or a SPAM-inducing signup.

    Valley Med trails only slightly behind Kaiser in terms of pills dispensed, but a pill count fails to account for patient load or other normalizing factors for a valid comparison.

    Then there’s the absence of data. Conspicuously absent is VA data.

    Lastly, the article fails to mention the increase in suicides attributed to the FDA’s misguided efforts to reduce opioid use. Some patients legitimately need pain relief; death is preferred to suffering.

    Fortunately the FDA has recently acknowledged overreacting. But the FDA crackdown has vastly reduced the availability of pain management physicians. The FDA’s misguided efforts has needlessly increased suffering of many.

  2. Why is the WaPo trying to shame medical distributors? Don’t they fill orders for every kind of medicine, and then distribute it… legally?

    And the manufacturers, too. It’s the same story: they’re not just manufactuing “opioids.” They’re manufacturing hundreds, and often thousands of different medicines and compounds. They’re all legal. Why single out manufacturers for making one legal product out of thousands of other legal products?

    It’s the same with pharmacies. They’re a business. When a patient comes in and hands the pharmacist two or three prescriptions, and one of them is for pain medication, what are the pharmacists supposed to do? Wave the “opioid” script around and shout, “Narcotic prescription here!” Are they supposed to shame the patient?

    This story is complete misdirection, and it deflects from the real problem.

    The government and its pet media run around in circles like Chicken Little, squawking about legal businesses making and selling legal products, while they completely avoid the real problem: the relatively small fraction of doctors that write the vast majority of opioid prescriptions. If it weren’t for that small subset of doctors, the opioid problem would be much smaller.

    They crow that “in seven years of analysis” …but no one at the WaPowever thought to compile a list of doctors who wrote the vast majority of those narcotic prescriptions? Or do an expose on how the government is the central enabler in this problem?

    Because the government is every bit as complicit in the narcotic problem as the small fraction of doctors who write the overwhelming number of narcotic prescriptions.

    Every prescription for “opioids” is recorded by the DEA. The government knows the identity of every doctor who wrote every prescription, the patient they were written for, and the exact number of narcotic pills prescribed by that doctor. THAT is meaningful information. But this is just self-servig pablum.

    The WaPo is in a tizzy about businesses that do everything legally, and by the book. But those businesses are bound by law to act in the best interests of their shareholders, first and foremost. That means making the maximum profit — and if a business turns down customers, another business witll eat its lunch — and the company’s officers that turn over its business to a competitor can be sued by its shareholders for violating their fiduciary duty.

    Rather than the WaPo managment clutching at their pearls and scurrying for the fainting couch over manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies that conduct their business legally, why doesn’t the WaPo do some real investigative journalism, and post stories that make a difference? Tell the world who is doing the enabling. Which doctors are turning their patients into narcotics addicts? Why does the government turn a blind eye to them?

    And the government is 100% complicit in this problem. They give the doctors permission. Is it any wonder that some doctors use that permission for their own benefit?

    Government bureaucrats draw an arbitrary line between one kind of pusher and another. One pusher is legal, the other pusher isn’t. But to an addict, a pusher is a pusher. I don’t see much of a difference myself. Most doctors try to avoid prescribing narcotics, and if they do, they won’t refill prescriptions. But the legal narcotics pushers refill, and refill, and refill…

    Real investigative journalism is hard work. It’s much easier for the WaPo to pretend they’ve done something that improves society. But they haven’t moved the needle. They’ve sold some newspapers, that’s about all.

    The WaPo and others like them are shirking their duty of a free press. Instead of investigating the government, they’re in cahoots with the government. And We The People are getting screwed because of it.

  3. Just a suggestion….. Don’t get me wrong…. I do enjoy the article but our local problem is Crystal Meth. This was well documented by KQED and now the County is finally getting on board….

    Years have been spent focusing on the wrong substances and chemicals. It’s not Booze, it’s not Opioids, its Bad Meth in Santa Clara County.

    So, San Jose Inside…. Why don’t you write an article about our little (BIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG) meth problem and how the homeless population is going absolutely crazy tearing our entire city apart brick by brick? Or how Santa Clara County is leaving all these people to die on our streets?? Or how about the FACT that our county dropped the ball big time and has been focusing on Booze…. Not Meth!!!! Watch the Video and learn folks…. We screwed up big time….

    Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Budget is 536 million and no one even shows up downtown to help. Our county needs to be setting up shop downtown and start leasing those building across from Saint James (Meth) Park. It’s called damage control….

    Is the reason no major media outlet is addressing this locally (Except KQED) because the origin of the Meth? That’s what I am starting to think…It’s manufactured in Mexico…. Mexican Super Labs ran by the cartels… then this Toxic mix is smuggling into our county thru our southern border.

    It so SAD to see our beautiful town turn into a third world country…. Every day I see another gate, another fence, and more metal bars on windows. Kids can’t play in parks and people don’t even want to walk down the streets….

    Fix this now!!!!!


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