Two drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription pain pills over a period of just 10 years to two pharmacies in a West Virginia town with a population of only 2,900 people.
State With Highest Drug Overdose Rate
Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that West Virginia has the highest drug overdose rate in the United States. More than 800 people here died of drug overdose in 2016.
"In 2016, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (52.0 per 100,000), Ohio (39.1 per 100,000), New Hampshire (39.0 per 100,000), Pennsylvania (37.9 per 100,000) and (Kentucky (33.5 per 100,000)," the CDC said.
Now, investigations have revealed a potential link between two drug wholesalers and opioid misuse in the state.
Excessive Number Of Opioid Pills For Small West Virginia Towns
From 2006 to 2016, drug wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith shipped 10.6 million oxycodone pills and 10.2 million hydrocodone pills to Hurley Drug and Tug Valley Pharmacy in Williamson town in Mingo County, West Virginia.
It also appears that shipment of the excessive number of drugs to Williamson pharmacies is just the tip of the iceberg. The two wholesalers also shipped relatively large number of drugs to pharmacies in other West Virginia towns with relatively small populations. The number is equivalent to giving 5,624 pills for each individual in Kermit for over just a period of one year.
From 2005 to 2011, Miami Luken sent 5.7 million prescription painkillers to a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, which has a population of just 400. H.D. Smith, on the other hand, sent 1.1 million painkillers to another town with a population of just 1,800 in 2008.
"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," Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J. said in a statement.
Probe Into Shipments Of Large Quantities Of Opioids
The panel investigating the nation's opioid epidemic sent out letters to the two drug wholesalers questioning them why they did not see the increased shipments as suspicious amid skyrocketing deaths from drug overdose in West Virginia. It also questioned the companies why they continue to give in to requests for more prescription painkillers.
Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith were given until Feb. 9 to answer the questions and provide documents that detail any measures they took to end the flooding of potentially addictive painkillers into the state.