ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Opioid manufacturers distributed about 842 million pills to Minnesota pharmacies from 2006 to 2012, amounting to 156 pills for each resident, according to newly released data.
Most of the pills were circulated in urban Hennepin and Ramsey counties, but rural counties topped the list for most pills dispensed per resident, the Minnesota Public Radio News reported based on analyzed data obtained by the Washington Post after a legal battle.
"It was the height of carelessness. It was the height of profits. It was the height of insanity when people were looking the other way is when my son got sick and actually died," said Dave Baker, a Republican state representative whose son died from an overdose in 2011. "How many great people are lost and how many families are devastated and will never be the same?"
The number of opioid-related deaths in the state rose from 153 in 2006 to 239 in 2012, a more than 35% increase, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Health Statistics. Almost 1,400 Minnesotans died in that six-year period.
Opioid overdose deaths in Minnesota reached a record 427 in 2017. The state required prescribers to enroll in a prescription monitoring program that year.
Baker and other supporters for victims of overdose have long maintained that the pharmaceutical industry, prescribers and pharmacists helped fuel the opioid overdose crisis. Baker helped craft legislation that the Minnesota Senate ultimately passed earlier this year, which increases the annual registration fees on pharmaceutical manufacturers and drug wholesalers that sell or distribute opioids in Minnesota. The projected $20 million raised yearly will be used on funding opioid-related response programs that support a wide range of prevention, education, intervention, treatment and recovery strategies.
"We're not supposed to penalize private companies like the distributors for selling a lot of product," Baker said. "But when they are doing it on the backs of others and addiction is wiping out statewide budgets and county budgets for placement for families and children, they aren't doing anything about it, then we have to actually step in and do something."
In addition to the bill, the Wisconsin attorney general's office is involved in at least four major lawsuits against opioid manufacturers or distributors. Oklahoma's $270 million settlement with the maker of OxyContin represented the first deal to come out after a wave of states filed lawsuits against drug companies.