From 2007 to 2011, prescription drug wholesalers collectively shipped over 200 million doses of two of the nation’s most popular painkillers into the state of West Virginia. “That’s an extraordinarily high number of medications in a state with less than 2 million people,” said Delegate Don Perdue, a former pharmacist of Wayne County, West Virginia.
Drug wholesalers shipped 140 million hydrocodone (Vicodin) and 60 million oxycodone (OxyContin) pills into West Virginia. AmerisourceBergen is the country’s third largest drug wholesaler and attributed to the distribution of 80 million hydrocodone pills and 38 million oxycodone pills being shipped into the state. These numbers made up for more of the total number of pills shipped than any other company. Wholesaler Miami-Luken Inc. came in second, with 20 million hydrocodone pills and 8 million oxycodone pills shipped into the state. The large number of drugs being shipped into the state, has lead West Virginia to file a lawsuit against the prescription drug wholesalers.
Between the years of 2001 and 2008, prescription drugs have been attributed to more than nine out of 10 of drug related deaths in West Virginia. Recent statistics still show that West Virginia leads the country in drug overdose deaths and its rate has rose 605 percent increase between the years of 1999 and 2010. Charleston lawyer Jim Cagle, the attorney representing the state, writes,“the drug distributors provided the fuel for the prescription drug problem in this state.” The pill numbers recorded in the lawsuit include those of McKesson Corporation, the country’s largest drug distributor and Cardinal Health, who is the second. This pending lawsuit serves as another example of the devastating prescription drug trend that is plaguing the country.
Distributor Cardinal Health is being sued in a separate lawsuit by West Virginia’s Department of Human Resources and the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. The number of painkillers this company has shipped into the state has not yet been disclosed. The state agencies accuse the drug wholesalers of shipping “massive quantities” of painkillers into the state while failing to report any suspicious orders from crooked pharmacies that served as pill mills for drug addicts.
Prescription drug overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, which has lead to millions of addicts and their families to look for help. Abusing prescription medications can have dire consequences from adverse mental and physical effects to abuse of more dangerous drugs or even death.