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ICYMI: E&C’s Bipartisan Investigation into Alleged Pill Dumping in West Virginia in the News


In recent days, bipartisan Energy and Commerce Committee leaders expanded its ongoing investigation into alleged pill dumping in West Virginia. The leaders sent a follow-up letter to distributor Miami-Luken, and probed a fifth distributor, H.D. Smith.

The letters detail the latest in a tragic story that has unfolded before everyone’s eyes – more than 20 million pain pills going to a single town in West Virginia, with less than 3,000 people.

“The committee’s bipartisan investigation continues to identify systemic issues with the inordinate number of opioids distributed to small town pharmacies,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) in a joint statement. “The volume appears to be far in excess of the number of opioids that a pharmacy in that local area would be expected to receive.”

The committee began its bipartisan investigation in May 2017, probing AmerisourceBergen Corporation, CardinalHealth, McKesson Corporation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

To learn more about the committee’s investigation, as well as other ongoing investigations and other efforts to combat the opioid crisis, click HERE.

How the over-prescription of opioids fueled the epidemic in West Virginia

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Drug firms shipped 20.8M pain pills to WV town with 2,900 people

… The panel recently sent letters to regional drug wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith, asking why the companies increased painkiller shipments and didn’t flag suspicious drug orders from pharmacies while overdose deaths were surging across West Virginia.

The letters outline high-volume shipments to pharmacies over consecutive days and huge spikes in pain pill numbers from year to year.

Between 2006 and 2016, drug wholesalers shipped 10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug in Williamson, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data obtained by the House Committee. …

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A town of 3,200 was flooded with nearly 21 million pain pills as addiction crisis worsened, lawmakers say

Over the past decade, nearly 21 million prescription painkillers have been shipped to a tiny town in West Virginia, a state where more people have overdosed on opioids and died than in any other in the nation.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been investigating the opioid epidemic, revealed that 20.8 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills have been delivered to Williamson, W.Va., a town with a community college, a rail yard — and fewer than 3,200 residents, according to the most recent Census figures.

That’s more than 6,500 pills per person — though not all of the painkillers stayed in Williamson. …

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Welcome to Williamson, W.Va., where there are 6,500 opioid pills per person

The deadly math in this struggling but proud West Virginia town breaks down like this: For over a decade, two pharmacies just four blocks apart dispensed some 20.8 million prescription painkillers in a town of just 3,191 residents.

That’s more than 6,500 prescription painkillers per person in this coal-mining town that sits just across the Tug Fork River from Kentucky.

Those jarring figures were released this week by the congressional committee investigating the epidemic that has ravaged the Rust Belt — and the two regional drug wholesalers, Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith, that are accused of swamping Williamson with millions of highly addictive opioid pills. …

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Drug companies flooded West Virginia town of 2,900 with 20.8M pain pills

… Miami-Luken also provided 5.7 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to the Mingo County town of Kermit with 400 people, the report said. In 2008 alone, the company was responsible for over five thousand pain pills for every person in town.

Another regional drug wholesaler, H.D. Smith, was subject to questions of why it distributed 3,000 pain pills a day in 2008 to Family Discount Pharmacy in another West Virginia town, population 1,800. The committee said it was a 10-fold increase compared to 2007, the newspaper reported. …

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Drug Distributors Shipped 20.8 Million Painkillers To West Virginia Town Of 3,000

Williamson, W.Va., sits right across the Tug Fork River from Kentucky. The town has sites dedicated to its coal mining heritage and the Hatfield and McCoy feud and counts just about 3,000 residents.

But despite its small size, drug wholesalers sent more than 20.8 million prescription painkillers to the town from 2008 and 2015, according to an investigation by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The opioids — hydrocodone and oxycodone pills — were provided to two pharmacies just four blocks apart. …

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Drug distributors shipped 20M pain pills to town of 3,000 people in West Virginia

… According to the committee, Miami-Luken, an Ohio-based drug distributor, supplied more than half of the pills sent to one of the pharmacies from 2008 to 2015.

The company also sent 4 million pain pills to another pharmacy in Oceana, W.Va., a town of 1,390 people, from 2008 to 2015, the committee said.

“This means that in 2014 alone, Miami-Luken provided roughly 689 pills for every man, woman and child in Oceana,” the committee notes in a letter to the company. …

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20.8 Million Prescription Painkillers Sent to West Virginia Town with Population of 2,900

… Williamson is just one part of the investigation. The same wholesalers also provide drugs to a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, a town with a population of 400 people. Miami-Luken provided Kermit pharmacies with 5.7 million prescription painkillers between 2005 and 2011, the paper reported reported. And H.D. Smith shipped 1.1 million painkiller pills to another West Virginia town with a population of 1,800.

The companies previously agreed to pay the state of Virginia a penalty in response to allegations that they sent far too many painkillers and failed to detect, report, or stop the influx of suspicious drugs. Miami-Luken agreed to pay $2.5 million and H.D. Smith agreed to $3.5 million, local news channel WSAZ 3 reported. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the moment, West Virginia has the highest drug overdose rate in the U.S. and the state plans to use the money to fight against drug abuse. …

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Congress continues investigation into Springboro pharmacy distributor

… For the shipments to Westside Pharmacy in Oceana, which now has about 1,300 people, Miami-Luken shipped about 4.4 million of the pills between 2008 and 2015. In 2014, that divided out to roughly 689 pills for every man, woman and child in Oceana, the committee’s letter stated.

On Nov. 4, 2015, a Miami-Luken investigator submitted a report evaluating the Westside Pharmacy in Oceana that found the pharmacy’s practices were “acceptable” and subsequently approved an increase to the pharmacy’s oxycodone limit.

The letter states at least five of the prescribing physicians listed on Miami-Luken’s Oct. 22, 2015 drug usage report for Westside Pharmacy have since had their licenses suspended or been found guilty of federal drug charges and sentenced to prison. …

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Drug companies submerged WV in opioids: One town of 3,000 got 21 million pills

… The letters released Tuesday are addressed to two regional drug distributors, Ohio-based Miami-Luken and Illinois-based HD Smith. Both companies have distributed eye-popping numbers of pills to small cities in the state. In the letters, the committee lays out distribution data it has collected and asks questions about the companies’ distribution practices, including why they increased distribution so sharply in some towns and why they didn’t flag suspicious orders.

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. …

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Drug Suppliers Flooded Tiny West Virginia Town With 20 Million Painkillers Over 10 Years

There are many causes behind the epidemic of opioid abuse in the U.S., but chief among them are the unscrupulous drug manufacturers and suppliers who turned a blind eye to their products’ addictive potential for the sake of profit. On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as part of its ongoing investigation into the crisis, called out two of these companies by name.

The committee found, among other things, that the small West Virginia town of Williamson—with only 2,900 residents—was flooded with more than 20 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills from 2006 to 2016. The drugs were shipped to just two pharmacies, four blocks apart, with more than half sent by two regional distributors based outside of the state, Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith. …

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Big Pharma Accused Of Flooding Small Town With 20.8 Million Opioid Painkillers

… The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith asking the companies to explain why they didn’t flag suspicious pharmacy orders or work to reduce painkiller shipments in light of rising overdose deaths linked to the drugs.

The committee also raised questions regarding suspicious shipments to neighboring small towns in West Virginia from the two drug distributors. In 2008 for example, Miami-Luken flooded the town of Kermit with enough opioids to give every resident, including youth, 5,624 pills each.

In another example the committee points to a pharmacy in the town of Beckley, which received 16,800 oxycodone pills from Miami-Luken over a period of only five days. …

Click HERE to read the full story.


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