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

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


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.

2 Responses

  1. This is, sadly, proof that even in the opioid heyday, pain was undermanaged.

    Let’s do the math:

    The two pharmacies in Sand Springs distributed a total of 9.3 million doses of opioids over a span of seven years.  We know that a low estimate for persons with Chronic Pain Conditions (CPC) is 20% of the population, and 4% live with high-impact chronic pain

    With a population of 20,000, there would be approximately 4,000 CPC patients.  If each person took only one pill a day every day for seven years, you would have 10,220,000 doses.  9.3 million, therefore, is low.

    Many persons with chronic pain certainly take more than one tablet a day.  I myself take six opioids a day, which over seven years would total 15,330 doses, to manage high-impact chronic pain.  At six doses a day, 9.3 million tablets would be enough to manage 607 patients.

    607 people in a population of 20,000 persons, suffering with CPC, is less than the estimated 4% who live with high-impact pain.

    No matter which way you do the math, even in the opioid heyday, pain was undertreated.

    And it’s only going to get worse.

  2. They make the numbers sound worse than they actually are. Spoon drugs is a long term care facility and “50 pills per resident per year” wouldn’t be unbelievable especially when you consider that often people in severe acute or chronic pain often receive 120 or more pills a month of just one prescription and are often on multiple prescriptions to make such pain bearable!

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