In a federal database tracking every pain pill sold in the U.S. at the height of the opioid crisis, one Albany, Ky., pharmacy has come into sharp focus: Shearer Drug. The family-run pharmacy in Clinton County purchased nearly 6.8 million pills that contained hydrocodone and oxycodone from 2006 through 2012, enough to give 96 pills each year to every person in the county of roughly 10,000 residents, the Washington Post reports. During this period, Shearer Drug procured more opioid pills on a per capita basis per county than any other retail pharmacy in the U.S. In 2012 alone, Shearer Drug bought over 1.1 million pain pills — a 55 percent increase from 2006.
Kent Shearer, a 67-year-old pharmacist who has owned Shearer Drug since the late 1990s, declined to discuss the volume of opioids dispensed at the pharmacy or answer other questions about his business. Shearer operates his pharmacy out of a building he has shared with a doctor who pleaded guilty in federal court in March to illegally prescribing opioids. Shearer Drug is among thousands of small, independent pharmacies that handled large volumes of hydrocodone and oxycodone from 2006 through 2012 and until now have largely avoided publicity for their roles in the epidemic. “There’s plenty of blame to go around. I don’t know that anyone has been perfect in doing everything possible to eliminate the epidemic,” said B. Douglas Hoey of the National Community Pharmacists Association, which represents about 15,000 independent pharmacies. Hoey cautioned against judging pharmacies based only on the number of opioids they handled. There are legitimate reasons small pharmacies can have outsize volumes, including proximity to a surgical center. The Post‘s analysis showed that nearly half of the opioid pills were purchased by just 15 percent of the drugstores.