A congressional committee investigating the rising opioid epidemic discovered that two out-of-state drug companies shipped more than 20 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills to a small West Virginian town over the past decade.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to two drug wholesalers questioning the companies on why they didn’t see the pharmacies increased demand for painkillers as suspicious. The committee also asked why the companies complied with the requests.
According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, between 2006 and 2016 Miami-Luken and HD Smith shipped 10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug. Both pharmacies are located four blocks apart in Williamson, a town in Mingo County with only 2,900 residents.
A congressional committee investigating the rising opioid epidemic discovered that two out-of-state drug companies shipped more than 20 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills to a small West Virginian town over the past decade
10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills were shipped to Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug in Williamson, West Virginia, a town with only 2,900 residents, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced
‘These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia,’ the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J. said in a joint statement.
The committee stated that from 2008 to 2015 the Ohio-based Miami-Luken shipped 6.4 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to Tug Valley. The wholesaler also supplied a large quantity of painkillers to the now-closed Sav-Rite Pharmacy in Kermit, a town in Mingo County with 400 people.
Miami-Luken was also questioned about shipments from 2005 to 2011 to Sav-Rite #2. According to the committee, the pharmacy received 5.7 million pills over a six year period.
‘The committee’s bipartisan investigation continues to identify systematic issues with the inordinate number of opioids distributed to small town pharmacies. 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 said.
The committee’s letter also raised concerns about Miami-Luken increasing its shipment of painkillers to Westside Pharmacy in Oceana, Wyoming County.
The committee said, according to the Gazette-Mail, that an employee at Miami-Luken reported a Virginia doctor who was sending his patients two hours away to fill their pain prescriptions at Westside.
In 2015, more than 40 per cent of the oxycodone prescriptions filled at the pharmacy were coming from the Virginia doctor.
The doctor’s license was suspended by the Virginia Board of Medicine the following year after an investigation determined his practice posed a ‘substantial danger to public health and safety’.
The committee also questioned Miami-Luken on why the company shipped 16,000 oxycodone pills over a five day period in 2015 to Colony Drug in Berkley.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is questioning Miami-Luken and HD Smith on why the companies didn’t think the demand for more painkillers was suspicious
‘In several instances, Colony Drug placed multiple orders for what appears to be excessive amounts of pills on consecutive days,’ the committee stated.
HD Smith, based in Illinois, also received a letter. According to the House Committee, Smith shipped 3,000 hydrocodone pills a day to Family Discount Pharmacy in Logan County in 2008. Within that year, the pharmacy received more than one million hydrocodone pills.
Smith was also a distributor to Tug Valley Pharmacy, Sav-Rite, Hurley Drug and Westside Pharmacy, which all requested more painkillers over the past few years.
‘We will continue to investigate these distributors’ shipments of large quantities of powerful opioids across West Virginia, including what seems to be a shocking lack of oversight over their distribution practices,’ Walden and Pallone said.
Both companies have until February 9 to respond to the committee’s questions and provide relevant documentation detailing what measures, if any, they took to end the flood of painkillers in West Virginia, which saw 800 fatal overdoses in 2016.
Smith said in a statement on Monday that it was reviewing the committee’s questions.
‘HD Smith works with its upstream manufacturing and downstream pharmacy partners to guard the integrity of the supply chain, and to improve patient outcomes,’ the company said.
Miami-Luken has not released a statement regarding the committee’s letter, and did not respond to the Daily Mail’s request for comment.
Both Miami-Luken and HD Smith recently settled lawsuits with West Virginia over allegations of flooding the state with pain pills. Smith agreed to pay the state $3.5 million while Miami-Luken paid $2.5 million, according to the Gazette-Mail.
Miami-Luken and HD Smith recently settled lawsuits with West Virginian for allegations the companies flooded the states with prescription pills. Pictured is Williamson, West Virginia