As opioid crisis surged, state pharmacy board member had the busiest pharmacy in Tulsa County

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Spoon Drug, 540 Plaza Court, in Sand Springs. Spoon Drug received more than 8.5 million pain pills between 2006-2012 according to data released by the Washington Post. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

During a seven-year period, the pharmacy that received the highest-number of opioids in Oklahoma was a long-term care pharmacy in western Oklahoma City.

Coming in second was a southern Oklahoma City Walgreens.

The third was a small, independent pharmacy in Sand Springs, population 20,000. The pharmacy, Spoon Drug, sits in a small shopping center just off the Sand Springs Expressway next to a Taco Bueno and a nail salon. It is owned and operated by James “Jim” Spoon, a longtime member of the state’s pharmacy board and current Sand Springs mayor.

Last week the Washington Post released data that had previously only been available to the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks every pain pill sold in the United States. 

The Post said it “sifted through” nearly 380 million transactions between 2006 and 2012. The data came from the DEA’s ARCOS database, a drug reporting system the DEA says “monitors the flow of DEA controlled substances from their point of manufacture through commercial distribution channels to point of sale or distribution at the dispensing/retail level.”

“The Post is making this data available … in order to help the public understand the impact of years of prescription pill shipments on their communities.” 

The release of the data by the Washington Post came just after Oklahoma wrapped up its seven-week trial against Johnson & Johnson for its alleged role in the state’s opioid crisis.

Data released by The Washington Post shows that more than 1.4 billion pain pills were received by pharmacies in Oklahoma between 2006 to 2012, a number that would account for more than 50 pills per resident per year. 

The data showed that Walgreen Co. was the largest distributor of opioids from 2006-2012 in Tulsa County, while Actavis Pharma, Inc., a global pharmaceutical company and subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, was the largest manufacturer of pills that made their way to Tulsa County.

And Sand Springs’ Spoon Drug received the highest number of pills in the county. 

There are actually two Spoon Drug locations in Sand Springs and both sites, situated only three miles from each other, were among the Oklahoma pharmacies that received the most pain pills, according to the data.

The first location, at 540 Plaza Court, received 7.8 million pain pills between 2006-2012. The second location, just three miles south off of Oklahoma 97 and 38th Street, received more than 1.5 million. Combined, that figure would rank Spoon Drug second only to Omnicare in Oklahoma City.

Most of the top locations on the list are large pharmacies in bigger cities across Oklahoma. For instance, Walgreens makes up more than half of the 25 pharmacies that received the most opioids. Of those 13 locations, five are in either Tulsa or Oklahoma City. Of the top 25 pharmacies on the list, only five are either not a Walgreens or not located in Oklahoma City or Tulsa. 

There are other smaller pharmacies in smaller towns sprinkled among the list as well. Places like R and S Drug Stores in Duncan, City Drug Store in Hugo, or Beggs Pharmacy in Pryor. 

Jim Spoon. Courtesy City of Sand Springs.

Spoon opened his first pharmacy 40 years ago. On the Spoon Drug “About Us” page, it states that the facility provides Sand Springs with “prescription delivery, nursing home service, a drive-thru window, and a great opportunity to get to know the pharmacists that serve you.

Spoon is listed as one of five pharmacists at Spoon Drug. He responded to an interview request by saying that while he appreciated the interest, “he had been advised not to comment on the situation since it involves ongoing litigation.”

Last year Spoon Drug was added as a defendant in the civil suit brought against opioid manufacturers by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The lawsuit originally targeted larger corporations such as Purdue Pharma, the McKesson Corporation, or Walgreens and CVS stores. Last July it was amended to add dozens of pharmacies, including Spoon Drug, as defendants. 

Spoon has been on the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy Board for years. A spokeswoman at the Pharmacy Board said Spoon had served 20 years on the board and that his current term began in 2017 and expires in 2022.

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The state pharmacy board is comprised of six governor-appointed members, five of whom are required by state law to be pharmacists. The remaining member is a “public member” who serves co-terminously with the governor. 

The board is responsible for licensing and regulating pharmacists and pharmacies, and investigating complaints against pharmacists and pharmacies across the state. Its duties also include inspecting “all places handling drugs, medicines, chemicals and poisons,” according to pharmacy board guidelines.

In October 2018, Spoon was named winner of 2018 “National Community Pharmacist Association’s Independent Pharmacist of the Year. Spoon received the award at the NCPA’s 2018 convention in Boston, Massachusetts. 

In May he was elected to serve a one-year term as Sand Springs mayor, replacing Mike Burdge, who had served 13 terms as mayor. Sand Springs mayors serve one-year terms and are elected by the seven council members. 

Attorney General Mike Hunter listens to the opening statements from the defense attorney Larry Ottaway during opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, May 28, 2019. The proceeding are the first public trial to emerge from roughly 2,000 U.S. lawsuits aimed at holding drug companies accountable for the nationÕs opioid crisis. [Chris Landsberger/Pool]

Earlier this month Oklahoma wrapped up its trial with Johnson & Johnson, and Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman, who presided over the non-jury trial, is expected to rule on the case at some point in August. Briefs from both state attorneys and attorneys for Johnson & Johnson are due July 31.

The state originally filed the lawsuit against drug makers Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson. 

Purdue Pharma settled with Oklahoma for $270 million in March and Teva followed suit in June, settling for $85 million. Both companies denied wrongdoing as part of their settlements. 

That left only Johnson & Johnson as a defendant, and the company argued during the lengthy trial that its footprint in the state was too small to justify the $17.5 billion price tag Oklahoma has requested. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter argued during the trial that Johnson & Johnson created a “public nuisance” in Oklahoma, a state in which studies show pain relievers have contributed to more than 60 percent of drug overdose deaths. Brad Beckworth, another attorney for the state, referred to Johnson & Johnson as “the kingpin” of Oklahoma’s opioid crisis. 

Between 2007 and 2014, 4,653 Oklahomans died from unintentional prescription opioid overdoses, Hunter said during the trial.

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan has two kids, three dogs, and no time to himself. He's fueled by QuikTrip and Twitter. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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