Reported by local West Virginia publication the Charleston Gazette-Mail, The House Committee on Energy and Commerce have conducted shocking research that revealed one West Virginian town with a population of 3,000 to have been shipped 20.8 million painkillers between 2008 and 2015.
The research reveals that these 20.8 million prescriptions were distributed between two pharmacies in the tiny town of Williamson, West Virginia.
This information has come forth at a critical time for the state of West Virginia, which continues to experience record-high levels of opioid overdoses. In 2016, the CDC reported 880 fatal overdoses in the state, which has a population of just 1.8 million.
Pharmaceutical companies have remained under fire in recent times, with many states moving to sue industry giants for their role in the unprecedented opioid epidemic that has severely affected all areas of the country. Most recently, New York City opted to sue Big Pharma for $500 million, describing the corporations as “getting away with murder.”
With cities required to increase resources and availability of emergency personnel, the opioid epidemic has caused major crises, particularly in rural areas such as West Virginia, where the devastation is overwhelming.
No person is immune to the opioid crisis; regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, or any other number of factors, the sweeping effects of this epidemic have left lasting effects upon our nation’s people and families, including the countless children that have lost parents to the disease of addiction.
Accountability in the Opioid Crisis
With so many prescriptions being made available to a town of just 3,000 people, many wonder how such an event could have happened—and how no one was held accountable in the seven years that were taken into consideration in this study.
For Williamson’s part, officials have looked toward the pharmaceutical companies for answers, namely from regional wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith. The time period in question resulted in nearly equal amounts of hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions to be filled at the two pharmacies in Williamson, over and over, without any flagging or investigation.
Meanwhile, overdose rates skyrocketed throughout the state—eventually becoming the highest in the country.
As we look to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable, it is clear that we are merely beginning to combat this crisis. Thousands of people continue to be affected in West Virginia on a daily basis; beyond that, millions more across the country are struggling. Increasing the availability of ethical, compassionate treatment is an important first step; understanding the complexity of addiction and its treatment is even more crucial in creating a lasting solution for sobriety.
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