How could drug wholesalers send 20.8 million prescription painkillers over a 10-year period to two West Virginia pharmacies in a town of just 2,900 people without raising red flags by authorities? That’s what a congressional committee investigating the nation’s opioid epidemic wants to know.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee took issue with massive shipments of opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone by wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith to Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug in the tiny town of Williamson in Mingo County, located in southern West Virginia.
“These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia,” said Committee Chairman Greg Walden and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., in a joint statement.
The lawmakers are questioning why the companies didn’t question the high-volume shipments to the two pharmacies over consecutive days or the large spikes in opioid sales from the pharmacies year after year. According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data obtained by the House Committee, the companies shipped the pharmacies 10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills between 2006 and 2016.
From 2008 to 2009, Miami-Luken’s shipments to Williamson’s Tug Valley Pharmacy increased threefold. From 2005 to 2011, the company also shipped 5.7 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to the neighboring town of Kermit, which has a population of 400. That translates to 5,624 pills for every man, woman and child in Kermit during that timeframe. The company was also questioned about its massive opioid shipments to other pharmacies in other towns in the state.
“The committee’s bipartisan investigation continues to identify systemic issues with the inordinate number of opioids distributed to small town pharmacies,” Walden and Pallone said in the statement. “We will continue to investigate these distributors’ shipments of large quantities of powerful opioids across West Virginia, including what seems to be a shocking lack of oversight over their distribution practices.”
West Virginia has the highest drug overdose rate in the country, with more than 880 overdose fatalities reported in 2016.
Source: West Virginia Gazette-Mail