Four executives from drug distributors told members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that their companies did not fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic, but one executive did express “personal regret for judgments that we’d make differently today,” Law360 reported.
George Barrett, executive chairman of Cardinal Health, was referring specifically to opioid shipments his company and others made to two pharmacies in West Virginia, including one in Mount Gay-Shamrock, a town of just under 1,900 people, that received more than 16.5 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills from 2006 to 2016. “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish we had moved faster and asked a different set of questions.”
The three-hour hearing comes a year after the subcommittee opened an investigation into the distribution of powerful painkilling opioids. The investigation focused on the massive shipments of opioids to small pharmacies in West Virginia. The committee cited more than 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills sent to the state between 2007 and 2012 – enough for every person in the state to have 433 doses. More than half of those pills were distributed by Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson.
The drug distributors were grilled on how their suspiciously large opioid orders to pharmacies weren’t flagged by the companies’ internal controlled substance order monitoring program, or how the orders went unreported to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. All the executives said they have since updated their programs to better detect unscrupulous orders and prevent them from being delivered to pharmacies.
Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson are named among several drug makers and pharmacies in more than a hundred lawsuits consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in the Northern District Court of Ohio under U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster. The lawsuits were brought by local governments and tribes across the country and claim the companies fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic, causing overdose deaths and economic damages to communities.