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.
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.
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- Attorney General Josh Kaul announces $350 million settlement with marketing firm over its role in opioid epidemic - Wisconsin Department of Justice - Feb 1st, 2024
- Grants Will Fund Recovery Housing For Those Facing Homelessness and Battling Opioids - Margaret Faust - Jan 12th, 2024
- Baldwin Helps Advance Bipartisan Bill to Address Opioid and Fentanyl Crisis - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Dec 14th, 2023
- DHS and DOJ Announce Dose of Reality Roundtable Discussions on Wisconsin’s Opioid Epidemic - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Dec 6th, 2023
- Limited Supply of Narcan Prevents Milwaukee Groups From Saving Lives - Edgar Mendez - Dec 1st, 2023
- MUPD, Wisconsin Voices for Recovery partner to install Nalox-ZONE boxes on Marquette campus - Marquette University - Oct 12th, 2023
- MKE County: Drug Settlements Could Help Expand Opioid Addiction Programs - Graham Kilmer - Sep 21st, 2023
- DHS Awards Funding to Law Enforcement Agencies Working to Address the Opioid Epidemic - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Sep 21st, 2023
- Milwaukee County Announces Locations of 11 ‘Harm Reduction Vending Machines’ to Combat Death from Overdose - County Executive David Crowley - Aug 8th, 2023
Read more about Opioid Crisis here