The Post’s recent series “The Opioid Files” concluded that a handful of companies distributed the majority of opioids from 2006 to 2012. This conclusion seems sensational only with an absence of context. Specifically, The Post has previously reported that just three of these companies hold overall drug distribution market share of 85 percent.
This means that 85 percent of all U.S. medicines travel through the distribution network of three companies to hospitals and pharmacies. This includes drugs to treat high cholesterol, diabetes and cancer, and nearly every Food and Drug Administration-approved medication requiring patients to get their prescriptions from a pharmacist.
According to research by the University of Southern California , AmerisourceBergen’s market share for all products is slightly more than 30 percent — yet the Drug Enforcement Administration data released shows that we shipped just 11.7 percent of opioids. Not surprisingly, these products are a small fraction (less than 2 percent) of our business.
The truth is that opioid medications are manufactured in quantities set by the DEA and distributed only to registered pharmacies filling prescriptions from licensed physicians. This supply chain is highly regulated, and the DEA has always had access to detailed information on every order throughout the evolution of the crisis.
Gabe Weissman, Conshohocken, Pa.
The writer is senior vice president for communications of AmerisourceBergen.
The July 20 front-page article “Emails show indifference to drug crisis” focused on the role of the manufacturers and patients, as though they were directly linked. What about the other corporations that have profited handsomely from this trade while neglecting their social, if not legal, responsibility: in particular, drug wholesalers and pharmacy chains that form the supply chain? They, too, should be scrutinized for their role in perpetuating this epidemic. They, too, looked the other way.
And, while The Post is to be commended for suing the Drug Enforcement Administration for data back to 2006, data collected by market research companies has been available to the DEA for at least 10 years prior. These data have provided reliable estimates of prescription volume by prescriber since the late 1990s. Further, the DEA has had access to virtually 100 percent of transactions from drug wholesalers to pharmacies. Why did the DEA do so little to address this issue as the body count rose? There are yet more contributors to this scourge who should be held accountable.
Roger Korman, Philadelphia
The writer worked for a pharmaceutical
market research company.
Virginia has reached a 20-year high for marijuana arrests, with nearly 29,000 arrests in 2018, accounting for more than half of all drug-related offenses [“In Virginia, a 20-year high for pot arrests,” Metro, July 20]. More than half of those arrested were younger than 24, with a mere charge of possession. How many spent time behind bars? It is safe to guess that some, if not many, did. How many of these cases resulted in a death? Possibly zero? Obviously, too few to be mentioned by the Virginia State Police in their reporting.
Meanwhile, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration reports that it sat on its hands and watched while multinational drug companies and their distributors peddled 76 billion opioid pills from 2006 through 2012, and opioids caused more than 200,000 American deaths since 1996. Corporate emails now reveal that these drug companies were far more concerned with maximizing profits while knowing they were killing many of their customers.
So, you may ask, how many drug company executives have been arrested, prosecuted and eventually sent to jail for this carnage? No question about that. That number is definitely zero.
This is an appalling misprioritization of our nation’s limited drug enforcement resources.
Shame on Virginia for helping to ruin so many lives, and shame on the DEA for failing to jail a single executive responsible for this epidemic of preventable deaths rooted in corporate greed.
Is it any wonder that people lose faith in our institutions?
Bill Borwegen, Annapolis