Americans are in more pain than any other population around the world. At least, that's the conclusion that can be drawn from one startling number from recent years: Approximately 80 percent of the global opioid supply is consumed in the United States.
Pain drugs are the second-largest pharmaceutical class globally, after cancer medicines. "There was about 300 million pain prescriptions written in 2015," Irina Koffler, senior analyst, specialty pharma, Mizuho Securities USA, told CNBC.
The 300 million pain prescriptions equal a $24 billion market, Koffler said, but it's not a market evenly divided around the globe. Rampant use of opioids in the United States, which represents only 5 percent of the global population, points to a larger divide between affluent nations and the rest of the world when it comes to prescription painkillers.
"If you include Canada and Western Europe, [consumption of global opioid supply] increases to 95 percent, so the remaining countries only have access to about 5 percent of the opioid supply," said Vikesh Singh, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Pancreatitis Center at Johns Hopkins University.
In most countries, the use of opioid prescriptions is limited to acute hospitalization and trauma, such as burns, surgery, childbirth and end-of-life care, including patients with cancer and terminal illnesses. But in the United States, every adult in America can have "a bottle of pills and then some," U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has said publicly.