West Virginia has faced the brunt of the opioid epidemic with 261 tri-county overdoses in 2016, and the highest overdose rate in the nation. You may wonder why this particular state was struggling the most with opioid addiction and overdose problems. Recently, a congressional committee found that drug companies have shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies to a town in West Virginia with 2,900 people over the past ten years. The pharmacies are a mere four blocks apart.
Williamson in Mingo County received the mass amounts of hydrocodone and oxycodone, far exceeding the amount of people living there and the shipments were never flagged or scrutinized by the drug companies. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is looking at this shipment and past ones to see how many pills were coming in to West Virginia over the past decade. They’re also looking for any correlation to how drug companies may have played a role in the current opioid epidemic.
The companies Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith are regional wholesalers that increased drug shipments to West Virginia and failed to do anything about the suspicious drug orders, regardless of the state’s alarming overdose rate. Two other pharmacies in Williamson received 10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills between 2006 and 2016. To put the number of pills sold into perspective, Miami-Luken sold enough opioids for everybody in Kermit—including children—to have 5,624 pills in 2008.
Mingo County isn’t the only county dealing with large shipments of drugs. Oceana, Wyoming County had its own issue with opioids, but it was discovered that 40 percent of the prescriptions were coming from one doctor in Virginia. He has since been suspended from his doctor’s license by the Virginia Board of Medicine.
Miami-Luken shipped a suspiciously large shipment to a pharmacy in Beckley in 2015. 16,800 pills came to the pharmacy over a span of five days. H.D. Smith shipped 1.1 million pills to a town of 1,800 people in 2008.
The committee investigating this activity has Republicans and Democrats working together to find out why these drug companies delivered dangerous pills to pharmacies in small towns.
This isn’t the first time Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith have been under scrutiny. DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC represented the State of West Virginia in a lawsuit against these two companies and other opioid distributors in West Virginia, and in 2016, Miami-Luken paid $2.5 million to the State of West Virginia and in 2017 H.D. Smith paid $3.5 million to the State of West Virginia to settle the claims.
The companies had until Feb. 9 to give the committee documents detailing their efforts to stop flooding Virginia with drugs, if they exist. The members of the committee remain united in their goal to identify what went wrong with the drug companies’ distribution practices, and how they can try to help get West Virginia back on track.
If you or a loved one has suffered from opioid addiction, you may be eligible for compensation. A Charleston opioid litigation lawyer from DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC can help you stand up for your rights.