Analysis of Government Data Reveals Main Players in Opioid Market

Three drugmakers produced 85% of the supply, while five distributors were responsible for releasing 75% of the pills into the market.


The ARCOS database is a government database containing information compiled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, including information on the supply of opioids in the country. This information was, until recently, held under federal seal as part of a multi-district litigation (MDL) in Cleveland involving approximately 2,000 towns, cities and counties and 20 drug manufacturers and distributors.


The Washington Post sued to gain access to the database and won, and has released a report on the top players in the opioid drug market.


Analysis of the database revealed that three drug manufacturers produced 85% of the 62.3 billion opioid pills delivered to U.S. pharmacies between 2006 and 2012, and five distributors were responsible for shipping 75% of the total.


The three drug companies included SpecGx, a subsidiary of what is now Mallinckrodt; Actavis Pharma, the former generics giant now owned by Teva; and Par Pharmaceutical, a then-independent company now owned by Endo. Of the distributors, McKesson accounted for 18.4% of the supply, or about 14.1 billion pills. The others in the top five included Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and CVS.


Prosecutors in the MDL have proposed to bring all of the plaintiffs into a single “negotiation class” to enable one large settlement, with each city and county receiving a portion of the settlement based on the number of opioids distributed there as well as the number of overdose deaths. The settlement would then indemnify the drug manufacturers and distributors from any future litigation.



Emilie Branch

Emilie is responsible for strategic content development based on scientific areas of specialty for Nice Insight research articles and for assisting client content development across a range of industry channels. Prior to joining Nice Insight, Emilie worked at a strategy-based consulting firm focused on consumer ethnographic research. She also has experience as a contributing editor, and has worked as a freelance writer for a host of news and trends-related publications