Drug wholesalers have been shipping higher and higher numbers of opioid painkillers into West Virginia for the last several years as levels of abuse, addiction, and overdose deaths climbed, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported after an investigation.
There were 433 hydrocodone and oxycodone pills shipped to West Virginia by drug wholesalers for every man, woman and child in the state, a total of 780 million in six years, according to records the newspaper obtained from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Four counties in West Virgina have the highest pain pill overdose rates in the country, the Gazette-Mail reported, according to CDC information, and hydrocodone and oxycodone overdose deaths jumped 67 percent in the state from 2007 to 2012.
Drug wholesalers, led by McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., tried to keep the records private, but lost their battle to do so in the courts. The three companies control more than 85 percent of the U.S. drug distribution market and were the main suppliers to West Virginia.
“These numbers will shake even the most cynical observer,” retired pharmacist Don Perdue, who was also a former delegate from the state, told the Gazette-Mail. “Distributors have fed their greed on human frailties and to criminal effect. There is no excuse and should be no forgiveness.”
The Gazette-Mail found distributors did not report suspicious orders of controlled substances to the state Board of Pharmacy. Furthermore, the board did not enforce regulations when inspecting small-town pharmacies even when they ordered more pills than could ever possibly be needed by their residents.
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