The bipartisan investigation revealed systemic failures by both wholesale drug distributors and the Drug Enforcement Administration to stop the flow of millions of pills into rural West Virginia. The report also lists several legislative and policy recommendations to help improve the effectiveness of the distributors’ compliance programs and the DEA’s enforcement.
The Washington Post writes, “The 324-page report, the culmination of an 18-month investigation of alleged pill dumping in West Virginia, shows how mistakes and lack of oversight led to a massive influx of pills there, much of which ultimately fueled the black market sale and illegal abuse of opioids, including oxycodone.”
Congressional report: Drug companies, DEA, failed to stop flow of millions of opioid pills
The distributors of powerful prescription opioids and the Drug Enforcement Administration failed to stop the flow of millions of pills into rural West Virginia despite rampant warning signs that the pills were being diverted for abuse, inertia that contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic, a congressional report has found.
A report from the majority staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that distributors, which fulfill orders for prescription drugs to pharmacies, failed to conduct proper oversight of their customers by not questioning suspicious activity and not properly monitoring the quantity of painkillers that were being shipped to individual pharmacies.
The committee also found that the DEA did not properly use a database that aims to monitor the flow of powerful prescription painkillers from manufacturers to sellers, something that could have allowed federal agents — in real time — to notice that millions of pills were being sent to pharmacies in West Virginia. The agency also curtailed enforcement of distributors, the report found, and infighting inside the agency affected the way cases were handled.
The 324-page report, the culmination of an 18-month investigation of alleged pill dumping in West Virginia, shows how mistakes and lack of oversight led to a massive influx of pills there, much of which ultimately fueled the black market sale and illegal abuse of opioids, including oxycodone.
The Controlled Substances Act requires distributors and the DEA to diligently report and track data about such drugs, and the report found that neither did. West Virginia has been the epicenter of the opioid crisis; the state has the highest overdose death rate in the country.
“Taken altogether, the Committee’s report outlines a series of missteps and missed opportunities that contributed to the worsening of the opioid epidemic in West Virginia,” the report says. “While focused on a narrow part of West Virginia, the report raises grave concerns about practices by the distributors and the DEA nationwide.”
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