Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mingo County Was Desperate For Change-- Now They're Stuck With Trump And A Worsening Opioid Epidemic


An inflammatory tweet yesterday from Anthony Bordain alerted me to a shocking story in the Charleston Gazette-Mail by Eric Eyre, Drug firms shipped 20.8M pain pills to WV town with 2,900 people. Think about that for a second. And then consider the newest polling from Gallup on the eve of Trump's State of the Union. Of the dozen states where a majority of voters like Trump, West Virginia has the highest percentage of people who think he's doing a good job. although the poll shows Trump's national approval at 38%, in West Virginia is 61%, the only state with a 6 as the first number, Other than DC, where his approval number is 6%. Almost all the states where Trump has high approval numbers are states where the opioid crisis is highest and most virulent.

Bordain's tweet, by the way, was "The execs at companies who did this should serve more jail time than any street level dope dealer." Did what? Before we turn to Eyre's report, the best candidate running for Congress in any of West Virginia's districts, Kendra Fershee told us that "Unfortunately, there is a pattern in our history of out-of-state business coming into WV, using our resources, turning them into profit, and leaving us to pick up the pieces. The pattern here is the same, and this time, the used up and spit out resources were our people. The drug companies, and doctors who did their bidding, used West Virginians to reach record profits and have done nothing to help solve the problems they helped create. It's time to hold them accountable. A lot of attention has been paid to the pill mills in Florida that fueled the start of the addiction crisis, but the small town pill mills were just as deadly and seemed to fly under the radar longer. It's easy to see the destruction in WV, and the numbers don't lie. People die here at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country. The federal government can do two things to right the wrongs it helped create by failing to intervene with the pharmaceutical companies: 1) enforce regulations to stop this from happening again, and 2) legalize medical marijuana so the state can implement its law to help people manage pain safely and build revenue to help addicts get healthy."

Like Bordain, she had just read Eyre's story:
Over the past decade, out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people, according to a congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee cited the massive shipments of hydrocodone and oxycodone-- two powerful painkillers-- to the town of Williamson, in Mingo County, amid the panel’s inquiry 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,” said committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., in a joint statement.

The panel recently sent letters to regional drug wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith, asking why the companies increased painkiller shipments and didn’t flag suspicious drug orders from pharmacies while overdose deaths were surging across West Virginia.

The letters outline high-volume shipments to pharmacies over consecutive days and huge spikes in pain pill numbers from year to year.

Between 2006 and 2016, drug wholesalers shipped 10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug in Williamson, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data obtained by the House Committee.

Springboro, Ohio-based Miami-Luken sold 6.4 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy from 2008 to 2015, the company disclosed to the panel. That’s more than half of all painkillers shipped to the pharmacy those years. In a single year (2008 to 2009), Miami-Luken’s shipments increased three-fold to the Mingo County town.

Miami-Luken also was a major supplier to the now-closed Save-Rite Pharmacy in the Mingo County town of Kermit, population 400.

The drug wholesaler shipped 5.7 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to Save-Rite and a branch pharmacy called Sav-Rite #2 between 2005 and 2011, according records Miami-Luken gave the committee. In 2008, the company provided 5,624 prescription pain pills for every man, woman and child in Kermit.

In its letters, the panel also raised questions about Miami-Luken’s shipments to Westside Pharmacy in Oceana, Wyoming County. The committee cited documents that show a Miami-Luken employee reported a Virginia doctor, who operated a pain clinic located two hours from Oceana, was sending his patients to Westside Pharmacy, which filled the prescriptions.

In 2015, more than 40 percent of the oxycodone prescriptions filled by Westside Pharmacy in Oceana were coming from the Virginia doctor, according to the committee’s letter. The following year, the Virginia Board of Medicine suspended the doctor’s license, finding his practice posed a “substantial danger to public health and safety.”

The panel’s letter also mentions Miami-Luken’s suspicious shipments to Colony Drug in Beckley. In a five-day span in 2015, the drug wholesaler shipped 16,800 oxycodone pills to the pharmacy.

“In several instances, Colony Drug placed multiple orders for what appears to be excessive amounts of pills on consecutive days,” the committee wrote.

The House committee questioned H.D. Smith’s painkiller shipments to Family Discount Pharmacy in Logan County. The drug shipper distributed 3,000 hydrocodone tablets a day to the pharmacy in 2008, a 10-fold increase in sales from the previous year, according to the committee’s letter. The pharmacy, located in a town of 1,800 people, was shipped 1.1 million hydrocodone pills in 2008.

The House panel also cited Springfield, Illinois-based H.D. Smith for spikes in painkiller shipments to Sav-Rite, Westside Pharmacy, Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug.

Oxycodone is sold under brand names like OxyContin, while hydrocodone brands include Vicodin and Lortab.

“The committee’s bipartisan investigation continues to identify systemic issues with the inordinate number of opioids distributed to small town pharmacies,” Walden and Pallone said in the statement. “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.”

In a statement, H.D. Smith said it was reviewing the committee’s letter Monday.

“H.D. 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 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In February 2016, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey ended a state lawsuit against Miami-Luken after the company agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle allegations that it flooded the state with painkillers. Morrisey, a former lobbyist for a trade group that represents Miami-Luken and other drug distributors, inherited the lawsuit in 2013 after ousting longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw.

H.D. Smith paid the state $3.5 million to settle the same pill-dumping allegations in January 2017.

The committee gave H.D. Smith and Miami-Luken until Feb. 9 to turn over documents and answer dozens of questions about what steps, if any, the companies took to stop the flood of pain pills into Southern West Virginia.

“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.

The state has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. More than 880 people fatally overdosed in West Virginia in 2016.
People may point to Mingo County and snear that they voted heavily for Trump-- 7,876 (83.2%) to 1,365 (14.4%) for Clinton-- but these were desperate people who din't want another status quo establishment politician and decided to gamble on Trump. Their first choice, though was not Trump. During the primary Mingo voters didn't just give Bernie a massive 2,425 vote win over Hillary (1,074), they gave Bernie a huge victory over Trump (1,167). In fact, Bernie got more votes in the primary than Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie combined. So wipe that smear off your fucking face.

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At 5:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't the tendency of the dumbest bipedal hominids to snuff themselves with opiods (and whatever else) just proof of Darwin's theory? In trying to keep these defectives around, are we not just polluting the gene pool with more and more stupidity?

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the business of government is business, then why expect the government to do what it can to defend the people from corporate profiteering? After all, corporations pay handsomely to be protected from We the People taking action against those who trespass against us. But lead them not into incarceration, for they are the wealthiest bastards in all of creation.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Dorothy Reik said...

60 Minutes was all over this last year. A bill was passed to make it harder to stop big pharma. One of the authors was almost mad drug czar:


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