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May 16, 2017     The Hinton News
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6 - Hinton Tues. News May 16, 2017 D By ERIC E~ Charleston Gazette Mail Charleston, WV.--A congressional committee has started an investigation into prescription painkiller shipments to West Virginia. The probe targets the nation's three largest wholesale drug distributors-- McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee also is looking into whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shirked its responsibility to curtail the flow of highly addictive pain pills into West Virginia. In letters sent Monday, the committee directed the companies and the DEA to :turn over records that detail pain pill,shipments. The letters cite reports by the :Charleston Gazette Mail, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC about prescription opioid sales and lax enforcement. "These reports shine a light on a problem that many people have wondered about privately and publicly how are opioids flooding into some of our communities and pharmacies?" said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., in a joint statement. "As we work to combat this epidemic head-on, it's critical we get answers to why such extremely high numbers of these powerful and addictive painkillers were distributed in small communities in West Virginia and if similar situations are happening elsewhere.'! In December, the Gazette Mail reported that drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia pharmacies over six years. A small Murphy, R-Pa., and Diana DeGette, Weissman said. D-Colo. "AmerisourceBergen already The committee members added provides daily reports about the that the reported "possible quantity, type and receiving oversupply" of powerful painkillers pharmacy of every single order of suggests "such practices may have controlled substances we distribute exacerbated the opioid problem in directly to the Drug Enforcement the state" as many addicts have Administration, and we maintain switched from preseription pain pills robust systemsrto stop suspicious to street drugs like heroin and orders and prevent diversion of fentanyl, prescription drugs." West Virginia has the highest A McKesson spokeswoman drug overdose death rate in the declined comment Monday. A nation and the deaths are rising. At Cardinal Health spokeswoman last count, 864 people fatally could not be reached. overdosed on drugs in 2016-- a The committee also is record number, investigating the DEA's decline in "The opioid crisis in West Virginia enforcement actions against drug has led to numerous deaths and wholesalers, following reports by social challenges for its residents," The Washington Post. committee members said in the "Considering that this reported letter to distributors. "The state and decline in enforcement action federal government also have occurred in the midst of the opioid incurred costs of important social epidemic with the number ofopioid and addiction treatment services." prescriptions in the U.S. increasing The House committee gave the from 112 million in 1992 to 249 drug wholesalers until June 8 to million in 2015 it is imperative that disclose the number of hydrocodone the committee gather the facts about and oxycodone pills sold in West DEA's actions," House lawmakers Virginia from 2005 to 2016. (The wrote. Gazette Mail reported shipments The committee directed the DEA from 2007 to 2012). The drug firms to turn over all documents related also must provide a list of their to blocked or delayed enforcement distribution warehouses, against prescription drug The committee asked the distributors during the past six wholesalers to answer numerous questions about their drug sales years. A DEA spokeswoman would not monitoring systems, policies and comment on the investigation procedures, and whether they Monday. referred questionable orders for In January, AmerisourceBergen prescription painkillers to the DEA, and Cardinal Health agreed to pay West Virginia Board of Pharmacy or other authorities, the state a combined $36 million to In the letters, committee settle a lawsuit filed by then members inquired about whetherAttorney General Darrell McGraw drug distributors could more easily in 2012. The lawsuits alleged that identify suspicious drug orders the companies helped fuel West placed by pharmacies if the DEA Virginia's drug problem by shipping an excessive number of pain pills to could share sales data with the the state. pharmacy in Kermit, a Southern A similar lawsuit filed against West Virginia town with a companies. The wholesalers have complained for years that the DEA McKesson by Attorney General population of 392, received nearly 9 Patrick Morrisey in January 2016 million hydrocodone pills in just t~m leaves them in the dark. ~rgen sp.o.lsesman remains pending in Boone Circuit years, DEArecords sh~;r~:" ~