Wisconsin Is Awash in Opioids
Federal data shows massive over-prescription, 1.2 billion pain pills over six years.
The DEA’s Automated Report and Consolidated Ordering System (ARCOS) reveals a nebulous drug market sustained by a web of manufacturers and distributors. These are not black-market trap houses, but fully legal household names like Walgreens, CVS and Walmart.
Obtaining the data, however, wasn’t an easy battle. “The DEA didn’t want to give that to us,” Milwaukee County corporation counsel Margaret Daun told Wisconsin Examiner. Going as far as to push for the database to be kept under seal, Daun said, the DEA, “claimed that it [disclosure] would reveal investigative methods.”
By federal law, pharmaceutical manufacturers have to report both what they sell, and what they ship to the federal government. Companies must also report suspicious shipments, such as a county of 600,000 people received several million pills in a year.
Last year, Milwaukee joined numerous other municipalities nationwide in filing civil lawsuits against drug manufacturers. The aim of the still-pending civil actions is to achieve settlements significant enough to begin repaying the damages done to society by the opioid crisis. Daun says evidence driving the lawsuits is “a combination of these knowing violations of federal law plus literally thousands of internal emails.”
Describing Milwaukee’s lawsuit as “unique,” she says, “we hired different outside expert counsel than did virtually every other county.” Daun said that as a result of its comprehensive take on the issue, Milwaukee was the only Wisconsin county selected as a representative to a group of local governments around the country seeking a national settlement. Out of thousands of suits filed from various states, cities, and counties, she said, there are only 50 representatives.
Shortly before the lawsuits were announced in 2018, the phrase “drug dealers in lab coats” was coined to describe unscrupulous distributors. Some pain-management clinics were labeled “pill mills.” Actually, says Daun, “It’s drug dealers in boardrooms.” She added, “There was simply too much money to be made for [the companies] to resist.”
While criminal action may be brought against individual clinics, including a Wauwatosa clinic shut down in 2018, they aren’t valuable for civil cases. Pill mills simply lack the capital to repay the damage done to society.
People can overdose several times before having a fatal experience and families drain bank accounts for treatment programs, Daun said. The addicted person can then become a community problem. “They’re showing up in our emergency rooms, we don’t have room for anyone else,” Daun said.
By the start of 2019, overdoses eclipsed car crashes as a top way to die in America. More than 400 people died of a drug overdose in Milwaukee County in 2017, triple the county’s rate of homicides.
Though groundbreaking, the release of the ARCOS data is just the beginning. The next step will be obtaining the most recent four to eight years of data.
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.
More about the Opioid Crisis
- MKE County: Crowley Promotes Vending Machines To Prevent Opioid Deaths - Graham Kilmer - Mar 13th, 2023
- Fitzgerald, Johnson Introduce SOFA Act to Fight Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Rep Scott Fitzgerald - Mar 1st, 2023
- Local Officials Hope Lawsuit Settlement Funds Can Reduce Drug Overdoses - Evan Casey - Feb 13th, 2023
- Why Are So Many More Young Wisconsinites Dying? - Edgar Mendez - Feb 10th, 2023
- DHS Seeks Ideas for $8 Million in Opioid Settlement Funds - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Jan 26th, 2023
- MKE County: Six Ways County Will Spend Opioid Settlement Funds - Graham Kilmer - Jan 24th, 2023
- Baldwin Votes to Boost Mental Health Support and Take on the Fentanyl and Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Jan 23rd, 2023
- Gov. Evers Launches Housing Program to Support Individuals Experiencing Homelessness and Opioid Use Disorders - Gov. Tony Evers - Dec 28th, 2022
- AG Kaul Announces $10.7 Billion in Agreements with CVS and Walgreens over Opioid Epidemic Allegations - Wisconsin Department of Justice - Dec 16th, 2022
- Narcan, Fentanyl Testing Strip Vending Machines Planned for Milwaukee - Isiah Holmes - Dec 1st, 2022
Read more about Opioid Crisis here
2 thoughts on “Wisconsin Is Awash in Opioids”
Big old typo in the headline. Opiods. It did get my attention, however.