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Drug Wholesalers Are Fuelling Prescription Drug Epidemic

Philadelphia Teamsters think they’ve got at least part of the answer as to why they have a prescription drug epidemic in their area – drug wholesalers. They’re referencing the lawsuit against AmerisourceBergen and other wholesalers, filed because they sent 9 million pills to one West Virginia town with a population of only 400 over a two-year period. That would mean each person in the town – including 3-month old babies – took 22,500 pills, that’s 31 pills a day for two years. Not likely. But what is happening to those pills?

According to Federal law, if drug wholesalers have suspiciously large orders, they’re supposed to investigate. Surely 9 million pills going to a population of 400 looks suspicious.

But that was far from the only situation in West Virginia, and it’s been going on for a long time. According to an article in the West Virginia Gazette Mail:

“AmerisourceBergen, the nation’s third largest drug distributor, shipped 60.9 million hydrocodone pills and 26.6 million oxycodone tablets to West Virginia. That’s 33 hydrocodone pills and 15.5 oxycodone pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia. In 2009 alone, AmerisourceBergen supplied 149,000 hyrocodone pills, or 12,400 tablets a month to a single pharmacy in Williamson, Mingo County. Three doctors who wrote prescriptions at that pharmacy were indicted on federal charges the following year. Over two days in 2012, AmerisourceBergen also shipped 8,000 hydrocodone pills to a “drive-in” pharmacy in Boone County.

“H.D. Smith Drug Wholesale Co. sold 39,000 pain pills over two days to two Mingo County “sham” pharmacies located within four blocks of one another. In January 2008, the company distributed as many as 157,400 hydrocodone tablets to Hurley Pharmacy, a “pill mill” in Williamson – which has a population of just over 3,000. H.D. Smith shipped 12.4 million hydrocodone pills and 3.2 million oxycodone tablets to West Virginia.

“Top Rx, shipped more than 300,000 tablets of hydrocodone — known better under brand names like Lortab and Vicodin — over four years to a McDowell County pharmacy in the town of War, population 808. That amounts to 350 hydrocodone pills per person in War. Top Rx shipped 1.7 million hydrocodone tablets to West Virginia. The lawsuit doesn’t list the company’s oxycodone numbers. The bulk of Top Rx’s painkiller shipments went to Wayne and McDowell counties, places designated by state and federal authorities as “high-intensity drug-trafficking areas,” according to the lawsuit.

“Masters Pharmaceuticals supplied 1.5 million hydrocodone pills and 859,000 oxycodone pills to pharmacies in West Virginia. Between December 2011 and May 2012, Masters distributed 11,400 oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine pills to a pharmacy in the Boone County town of Van, which has 211 people. That amounts to 63 pills for each Van resident per day.

When the State filed the lawsuits on these companies, it accused them of ‘turning a blind eye’ to the orders and ‘profited from the “state’s pain-pill epidemic”.

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are involved in more drug overdose deaths than any other prescription drugs, and West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the country.

Is it any wonder that Pennsylvania, right next door, is now demanding more be done about the drug wholesalers’ huge orders going into small towns and pill mills?

Teamster Rocky Bryan said he’s seen how opioid abuse has hurt fellow union members, according to Newsworks.

“We see it time after time, they’re getting addicted. Everywhere from the young guys, all the way from 50-, 60-year-old men who are addicted on this,” Bryan said. “In our local, we’re putting people away in rehab because of this. And, from here, it goes to heroin with a lot of people.

Another teamster, Louis Milizia, said “We want to know what are the protocols, processes that the big distributors have to ensure that they’re not flooding our communities with drugs that are very highly harmful, highly addictive and if uncontrolled, can lead to addiction and possible death.”

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