4,505,100 Opioid Pain Pills, One Bronx Pharmacy: How Drug Suppliers Fueled an Overdose Crisis

The 161st Street Pharmacy in Melrose received more opioid pain pills than any drug store in the borough from 2006 through 2012, new data shows. Credit: Google

By Kevin Deutsch
kdeutsch@bronxjusticenews.com

This Bronx drug store—across the street from the borough’s towering courthouse—is at the heart of the local opioid crisis.

The 161st Street Pharmacy in Melrose received enough pain pills to supply every Bronx resident with multiple doses—part of a wave of powerful painkillers that led to a surge in overdose deaths in the borough, new data shows.

The pharmacy, a block from the Bronx Hall of Justice and four from Borough Hall, received 4,505,100 oxycodone and hydrocodone pills from drug suppliers between 2006 to 2012, according to the data.

The Bronx was home to about 1.4 million people during that period, and saw fatal opioid overdose totals surge in the same span.  By 2017, Bronx authorities had  recorded 363 drug overdose deaths locally—the most in New York City.

Boroughwide, there were 133,938,680 prescription pain pills sent to the Bronx between 2006 and 2012; enough for about 14 pills per person per year, the data shows.

The data was made public this week as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration database obtained and published by The Washington Post. The DEA database tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States, by manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every American town and city, from 2006 to 2012.

The Post said it sifted through nearly 380 million transactions detailed in the database and analyzed shipments of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, which account for three-quarters of the total opioid pill shipments to pharmacies.

The data also includes the top corporate distributors and manufacturers of opioids to each county. In the Bronx, 44,885,170 pain pills were distributed by Kinray Inc., and 47,606,938 were manufactured by SpecGx LLC, according to the database.

Kinray, a New York-based pharmaceutical subsidiary of Cardinal Health, Inc., settled with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney in 2016 for $10 million following a lawsuit alleging it failed to report suspiciously large opioid orders from New York City pharmacies.

Sasha Gonzales contributed reporting

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

About Kevin Deutsch 134 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, incarceration, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, and the New York Post, among other publications. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.