Firms sent 20.8 million pills to town of 2,900

Charleston Gazette-Mail investigative reporter Eric Eyre released yesterday reports from the U. S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee citing massive shipments of hydrocodone and oxycodone to Mingo County, amid the panel’s inquiry into the role of drug distributors in the opioid epidemic.

“Over the past decade, out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people, according to a congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis,” wrote Eyre.

“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, R-Ore, and ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-NJ, in a joint statement.

The panel recently sent letters to regional drug wholesalers asking them why the companies increased painkiller shipments and didn’t flag suspicious drug orders from pharmacies while overdose deaths were surging across West Virginia.    The panel’s 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 two pharmacies in Williamson, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration data.   More than 40 percent of the oxycodone prescriptions filled by a Wyoming County pharmacy were coming from one doctor, according to the congressional committee.

Wholesalers also shipped large quantities to other pharmacies in Southern West Virginia, including 16,800 oxycodone pills to one pharmacy in a five-day period.