Out-of-state drug companies have flooded West Virginia with staggering amounts of killer opioids, according to an ongoing investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A southern West Virginia town with a population of only 2,900 people was shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to just two pharmacies that stood four blocks apart.
As part of the panel’s inquiry into the role drug companies played in the nation’s opioid epidemic, the congressional committee cited regional drug wholesalers Miami-Luken and HD Smith, who shipped the alarming number of hydrocodone and OxyContin to the West Virginia town of Williamson.
“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 to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
In 2016, West Virginia experienced the worst rate of drug overdose deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 880 people fatally overdosed in West Virginia alone in 2016. Each day in the United States 115 people die from opioid overdoses, estimates the CDC.
But Miami-Luken and HD Smith are not the only distributors that have drawn the committee’s attention. The letters are just the latest in the committee’s ongoing probe into what it calls “pill dumping” amid the opioid crisis. Last year, the committee sent similar letters to three other drug companies, asking about their drug distribution in the state. The committee also sent a letter to Miami-Luken asking for information about its distribution practices and orders in West Virginia, among other things.
While Miami-Luke did respond to the committee’s inquiries by making requested data and files available, that only “raise[d] a number of additional questions,” wrote the committee.
“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,” Walden and Pallone told the Gazette-Mail.