Over the past decade, nearly 21 million prescription painkillers have been shipped to a tiny town in West Virginia, a state where more people have overdosed on opioids and died than in any other in the US.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been investigating the opioid epidemic, revealed that 20.8 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills have been delivered to Williamson, West Virginia, a town with a community college, a rail yard — and fewer than 3200 residents.
That's more than 6500 pills per person — though not all of the painkillers stayed in Williamson.
As the Charleston Gazettemail reported, committee leaders sent letters to two regional drug distributors, asking why the companies oversupplied this town, among others, with painkillers.
"These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia," congressmen Greg Walden, (R), and Frank Pallone, (D), said in a statement. Walden is chairman of the committee, and Pallone is the lead Democrat.
US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions this week announced a nationwide crackdown on pharmacies and prescribers that are oversupplying opioids amid a deadly epidemic. A 2016 Washington Post investigation found that a number of drug companies and pharmacies have failed to report narcotics flooding small towns.
Lawsuits, targeting some of the largest distributors of prescription painkillers and filed on behalf of various West Virginia counties, are seeking billions of dollars in reimbursements for the devastation the drugs have caused.