Staff Writer Jax Gay
Drug distributors poured 20.8 million pain pills into a West Virginia town of 3,000 people over a 10-year period, according to information released Tuesday as part of a congressional probe into the opioid crisis.
The out-of-state companies shipped the painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in Williamson, W.Va., from 2006 to 2016.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released the information as part of its investigation into the role of drug distributors in the opioid epidemic.
“These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia,” panel Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said in a statement.
According to the committee, Miami-Luken, an Ohio-based drug distributor, supplied more than half of the pills sent to one of the pharmacies from 2008 to 2015.
The company also sent 4 million pain pills to another pharmacy in Oceana, W.Va., a town of 1,390 people, from 2008 to 2015, the committee said.
"This means that in 2014 alone, Miami-Luken provided roughly 689 pills for every man, woman and child in Oceana," the committee notes in a letter to the company.
The company also sent 7 million pain pills to a pharmacy in Beckley, a town of 16,000, over an 11-year period.
Between 2005 and 2011, the company sent 6.3 million pain pills to two pharmacies in Kermit, a town of 400 people.
The committee also questioned why H.D. Smith, a drug distributor based in Illinois, sent 1 million hydrocodone pills in 2008 to a pharmacy in Mount Gay-Shamrock, a town of about 1,779 people.
The previous year, H.D. Smith only supplied that pharmacy with 57,000 pills.
H.D. Smith also provided the two pharmacies in Williamson with 5 million pain pills between 2007 and 2008. The company also shipped millions of pills to pharmacies in Kermit and Oceana.
Both companies have paid settlements over pill-dumping allegations. Miama-Luken paid a $2.5 million settlement to West Virginia in 2016 and H.D. Smith paid $3.5 million in 2017.
West Virginia leads the nation in the drug overdose death rate, at 52 deaths per 100,000 people.
President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency last year, and extended that declaration earlier this month.
Critics, however, have argued that the administration has failed to follow through with any substantive action.