CUMBERLAND — An attorney representing Allegany County in the national litigation underway against opioid manufacturers said a staggering 37 million doses of the narcotics entered the county between 2006 and 2012.
Bruce Poole, of the Poole Law Group, Hagerstown, gave an update on the litigation Monday at the Allegany County Office Complex on Kelly Road. Poole’s clients include Allegany County and the cities of Cumberland and Frostburg,
“The numbers are grim,” said Poole. “This is a county with just under 74 thousand population and for the period of 2006 to 2012 over 37 million doses of opioids came into this county ... of that over 29 million came in as pills.”
Poole said Allegany County’s opioid usage ranked near the top in Maryland.
“Allegany County had one of the most severe problems,” said Poole. “They are the second worst population in the state ... number one was Kent County. A lot of it depends on models and how you compare or weight things. Cecil County, just north of Kent, was considered to have the worst problem. But it depends on what you look at. But, Allegany County scored quite high.”
Poole said 76 billion doses were circulated nationwide in the same time period.
“It’s not just the volume but it’s the potency,” said Poole. “The higher the potency the more people will become addicted and have an overdose and people are going to die.”
Other officials at the meeting included Bob Flanigan, mayor of Frostburg; Ray Morriss, mayor of Cumberland, and Jake Shade, president of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners.
“As you know, in February of 2018 the county, and cities of Cumberland and Frostburg, chose to hire Bruce Poole and Levin Papantonio (of Florida) to represent the county and the municipalities in the connection with the opioid multi-district litigation,” said Shade. “We knew opioids had significantly impacted our community. It turns out the initial numbers had deeply underestimated the impact it had on Allegany County. We are learning more and more about how severely our area has been impacted and this is truly a horrible epidemic. While it has taken a monetary toll it has taken a far worse toll on human lives.”
Poole said the litigation will be heard in federal courts.
“The mass tort action that has been consolidated out in the federal courts of Ohio and the first case will be heard on Oct. 2. That is for two of the counties that surround Cleveland,” said Poole. “At about the same time, you will see legislation kick off in Nevada. It will focus very closely on the distributors, because a lot of the distributors claim they really didn’t know what was going on and the evidence that is being pulled together is showing that, that is just not true. So we are making a lot of progress.
“I think the case will be pretty clear. The manufacturer said back in 1996 when Oxycontin was introduced that they had a new opioid and it was a completely different type of opioid. That this opioid was not going to be addictive, that this opioid needed to be used far more frequently and far great dosage units. They actually retooled how America came to think about painkillers. We were told that pain was bad and it needed to be treated so quickly and promptly. We all know that it led to a catastrophe.”
Poole said the top opioid manufacturers were SpecGx, owned by Mallinckrodt Pharmacueticals; Par Pharmaceutical owned by Endo, and Actavis, owned by Teva. The top distributors of the opioids in the U.S. were Cardinal Health, McKesson, Anda Inc., Value Drug and Walmart.
Poole also gave the statistics for Allegany County for the period of 2006 through 2012 which the litigation is focusing on.
He listed the top 10 pharmacies in Allegany County — some include multiple locations — that filled opioid prescriptions during the time period and the number of dosage units:
• Bedford Road Pharmacy Inc., 5.8 million.
• Rite Aid, 5.3 million.
• CVS, 3 million.
• Martin’s, 2.9 million.
• Walmart, 2.3 million.
• Beckman’s Greene Street Pharmacy, 2 million.
• Potomac Valley Pharmacy, 1.9 million.
• LaVale Pharmacy, 1.8 million.
• Medicine Shoppe, 1.7 million.
• Pharmacare of Frostburg 1.2 million
Poole said the ARCOS database, created by federal law, now tracks every single dose of pain medication prescribed.
“We now have available data that shows specifically the drugs that came into the county, where they came from, who brought them here, and who sold them. It will be available to the media and also the public.”
Poole said in excess of over 100,000 people have died nationwide due to the opioid epidemic.
He said the drugs “rewire the brain in seven days.” Poole said it takes three years to restore the brain back to normal function.
In addition to Allegany County, Poole also represents Washington, Kent and St. Mary’s counties. He said the Maryland litigation will be heard in Maryland with the trial possibly beginning in 2021.
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.