The opioid epidemic in West Virginia is a focus of a Congressional investigation seeking to determine why three major opioid distributors flooded the state with more than 780 million hydrocodone and oxycontin painkillers in a recent six-year period – about 433 opioid pills for every West Virginia resident.
According to The (Huntington, West Virginia) Herald-Dispatch, the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce had mailed inquiries to drug distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen looking for answers about their involvement in opioid pill dumping in the state.
The inquiries, which The Herald-Dispatch says present more than 70 questions and 40 requests for documents, were the second batch of requests sent ahead of Committee meetings that will start later this month about the opioid epidemic.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 42,000 Americans died in 2016 from prescription opioids. In the six-year period spanning 2007-2012, 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on oxycontin and hydrocodone.
As the opioid epidemic pushes West Virginia and other states, counties, and municipalities into crisis mode, many governments are turning to lawyers for help. State and local governments across the country ravaged by opioid addiction have filed about 200 lawsuits against the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, pharmacies, and others that played a role in the epidemic.
And, as investigations and lawsuits mount against the opioid industry, some shocking numbers about the epidemic of addiction and overdose are coming to light.
According to The Herald-Dispatch, Kermit, West Virginia, a town with a population of 406, received an average of about 6,200 opioid pills per day at the height of the pill distribution in the state.
According to the Committee letter sent to McKesson, the Family Discount Pharmacy in Mount Gay-Shamrock, West Virginia, which has a population of 1,779, allegedly received more than 16.5 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone between 2006 and 2016. The pharmacy’s other location about three miles away in Stollings, West Virginia – population 316 – received an additional 3.69 million more hydrocodone and oxycodone pills in the same time period. And those were just the orders supplied by McKesson.
The House Committee on Energy & Commerce is also pressing other government agencies for better cooperation in confronting the opioid crisis. According to The Herald-Dispatch, Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration have “all but stonewalled” the congressional investigation.