There are multiple factors that have contributed to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States, the most glaring of which have been the dubious practices of drug manufacturers and suppliers who have ignored the possible addictive possibilities of their products over profit.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, investigating the crisis, called out two of the companies involved, Gizmodo reports. The committee found that a small town in West Virginia, Williamson, was flooded with over 20 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills from 2006 to 2016, despite having a population only of 2,900 residents.
The drugs were distributed to just two pharmacies four blocks from each other, with more than half of the shipments sent by two regional distributors outside of West Virginia: Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith.
The committee sent letters to both companies last week, demanding an explanation for why the sudden spike in demand did not raise a red flag.
Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said,
These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia.
This is the latest update on how West Virginia, one of the states that has been hit hardest by the opioid problem, became so inundated in prescription opioids. An investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail discovered that in 2016 alone, almost 800 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were sent to pharmacies in the state between 2007 to 2012. West Virginia only has 1.8 million residents, making the numbers all the more startling.
As of 2016, West Virginia recorded the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the country. Since investigations have commenced, the state has taken steps. For one, county attorneys have sued drug manufacturers and distributors, including giant retailers such as Walgreens and CVS, for not stopping suspicious drug orders turned in by doctors and pharmacies.