FOX43 Reveals: How hundreds of millions of prescription pain pills flooded local pharmacies

CENTRAL Pa.— We are learning just how many prescription pain pills were shipped to pharmacies in South Central Pennsylvania at the height of the opioid epidemic. Through a court order by the Washington Post and a federal judge’s decision, a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every pain pill shipped to pharmacies nationwide has been made public. FOX43 Reveals how hundreds of millions of pain pills, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, flooded our pharmacies and the impact it has had on our communities.

Nanci Kenyon shows FOX43 Reveals old pictures of her son Jess, who always knew how to make her smile.

“He was just a light in my life,” expressed Kenyon. “He made me laugh.”

But in 2010, Jess had a cliff diving accident and thinks took a dark turn.

“The doctor gave him Oxycontin for pain pills,” said Kenyon.

For seven years, Jess battled with substance use disorder. He passed away from a heroin overdose in 2017, just three days before thanksgiving.

RACHEL YONKUNAS: What was that moment like for you?

NANCI KENYON: It destroyed me. see the thing with mothers like myself who have kids who struggle with addiction we sort of live in a parallel life with them trying to help them so they don’t die. and there are so many ups and downs, getting them into recovery. and you feel like you failed because you didn’t save them.

RACHEL YONKUNAS: It’s not your fault, you know that right?

NANCI KENYON: Yeah.

Some of that fault, many believe ultimately points to drug makers and drug distributors. Companies like Cardinal Health and Mckesson Corporation were the top distributors for Pennsylvania. They are among other companies that currently face multi-billion dollar lawsuits from Attorneys General across the country.

This matters because Jess had been prescribed opioids at a time when pain pills were flooding local pharmacies. A database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration provides an unforgiving look at the opioid epidemic between 2006 and 2012, a time when more than 100,000 people died from overdoses nationwide.

That federal database tracking every pain pill distributed to pharmacies in every town and every city in the country had been hidden from the public until a lawsuit and a judge’s decision earlier this year.

Advocates for people in recovery from substance use disorder believe that massive influx of highly addictive pain pills has lead to a new problem today—lack of education.

“There was somebody that was denied antibiotics by a doctor because she’s on methadone and the doctor did not feel comfortable prescribing these antibiotics,” explained Scott Theurer, an advocate with the Lancaster County Recovery Alliance (LCRA).

The mission of LCRA delves into issues caused by addiction and ways to reduce the stigma.

“People are getting help much quicker, but you have to remember what’s really important is long-term recovery,” said Theurer. “This is an illness that affects two out of five families, so the idea that it’s not in your backyard is false. It is in your backyard. Sometimes it’s in your living room.”

In Kenyon’s living room are proudly displayed photos of her son Jess. They are now reminders of her new mission. Kenyon belongs to a group of other parents who, like her, lost a child to addiction. Together, they are sharing their stories to fight the disease.

“And we’re all trying in our own way to make a change,” asserted Kenyon. “To save some lives because we don’t want other parents to go through what we’re going through.”

FOX43 Reveals the volume of pills handled by pharmacies in our area climbed as the epidemic surged. From 2006 to 2012, this is how much oxycodone and hydrocodone went to individual counties in South Central Pennsylvania:

ADAMS COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 16,961,510 prescription pain pills, enough for 24 pills per person per year, supplied to Adams County.
  • 4,369,400 of the pills were distributed by Value Drug Co and 8,791,700 were manufactured by SpecGx LLC
  • RIDE AID OF PENNSYLVANIA, INC., GETTYSBURG pharmacy received the highest number, at 1,955,010

CUMBERLAND COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 55,476,935 prescription pain pills, enough for 34 pills per person per year, supplied to Cumberland County.
  • 15,621,660 of the pills were distributed by Cardinal Health and 33,184,000 manufactured by SpecGX LLC
  • PENNSYLVANIA CVS PHARMACY, L.L.C., MECHANICSBURG pharmacy received highest number at 3,121,900

DAUPHIN COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 60,434,058 prescription pain pills, enough for 32 pills per person per year, supplied to Dauphin County.
  • 16,338,560 of the pills were distributed by Cardinal Health and 34,286,580 were manufactured by SpecGX LLC.
  • PENNSYLVANIA CVS PHARMACY, L.L.C. HARRISBURG received highest number at 4,845,380

FRANKLIN COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 27,010,145 prescription pain pills, enough for 26 pills per person per year, supplied to Franklin County.
  • 7,177,970 of the pills were distributed by Value Drug Co and 13,743,900 were manufactured by SpecGX LLC.
  • WAL-MART PHARMACY 10-1850, CHAMBERSBURG received highest number at 2,762,660

JUNIATA COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 4,867,600 prescription pain pills, enough for 28 pills per person per year, supplied to Juniata County.
  • 1,838,420 of the pills were distributed by McKesson Corporation and 2,382,200 were manufactured by SpecGX LLC.
  • BEWARD PHARMACY, MIFFLINTOWN received highest number at 1,821,020

LANCASTER COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 101,334,233 prescription pain pills, enough for 28 pills per person per year, supplied to Lancaster County.
  • 34,691,900 of the pills were distributed by Cardinal Health and 53,349,580 were manufactured by SpecGX LLC.
  • PENNSYLVANIA CVS PHARMACY, L.L.C., LANCASTER received highest number at 4,225,400

LEBANON COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 21,685,131 prescription pain pills, enough for 23 pills per person per year, supplied to Lebanon County
  • 6,874,090 of the pills were distrubted by Cardinal Health and 11,782,700 were manufactured by SpecGX LLC.
  • WAL-MART PHARMACY 10-2023, LEBANON received highest number at 2,027,900

MIFFLIN COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 12,585,650 prescription pain pills, enough for 38 pills per person per year, supplied to Mifflin County.
  • 3,845,710 of the pills distributed by Cardinal Health and 7,901,300 were manufactured by SpecGX LLC.
  • PENNSYLVANIA CVS PHARMACY, L.L.C., BURNHAM received highest number at 3,218,460

PERRY COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 10,237,850 prescription pain pills, enough for 32 pills per person per year, supplied to Perry County.
  • 3,621,630 of the pills were distributed by Cardinal Health and 5,786,800 were manufactured by SpecGX LLC.
  • CONTINUING CARE RX, NEWPORT received highest number at 1,956,090 pills.

YORK COUNTY:

  • From 2006 to 2012 there were 81,408,034 prescription pain pills, enough for 27 pills per person per year, supplied to York County.
  • 16,764,010 of the pills were distributed by Cardinal Health and 43,146,500 were manufactured SpecGX LLC.
  • WALGREEN EASTERN CO., INC. YORK received highest number at 3,475,710

FOX43 Reveals issues that affect you and your family to keep you informed. Do you have a tip that needs to be investigated? Or documents we should dig into? Send us a confidential news tip at fox43reveals@fox43.com.

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