DEA failed to curb opioid distribution in West Virginia, Congress says

The Drug Enforcement Administration allegedly failed to stop millions of opioids from being diverted into West Virginia, according to a congressional report detailed by The Washington Post.

Six things to know:

1. The majority staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that distributors' oversight of their customers was inadequate because they did not question suspicious activity or monitor how many painkillers were shipped to pharmacies.

3. The same committee found the DEA did not use its drug-monitoring database properly, which contributed to repeated mistakes and lack of oversight, fueling black market sales and illegal distribution of opioids. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA is required to report and track data on opioids.

"Taken altogether, the Committee's report outlines a series of missteps and missed opportunities that contributed to the worsening of the opioid epidemic in West Virginia," the report said, cited by The Washington Post. "While focused on a narrow part of West Virginia, the report raises grave concerns about practices by the distributors and the DEA nationwide."

3. The committee investigated Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health; Chesterbrook, Penn.-based AmerisourceBergen; and San Francisco-based McKesson Corp., the country's three largest drug distributors. The report found that all three companies combined sent more than 900 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia between 2005 and 2016.

4. Cardinal Health said in a statement cited by The Washington Post that it commends the committee for "examining this complex national public health issue." Cardinal Health also said it will "continue to implement rigorous anti-diversion controls" and raise awareness about overprescribing painkillers.

5. AmerisourceBergen said in a statement cited by The Washington Post that it has "virtually no interaction with physicians and limited legal ability to gather information on their practices and prescribing behavior."

5. A DEA spokesperson said upgrades to the agency's software program have increased investigations into manufacturers, distributors and providers over the past three years. McKesson did not respond to requests for comment Dec. 18 by The Washington Post.

"Our bipartisan investigation revealed systemic failures by both distributors and the DEA that contributed to — and failed to abate — the opioid crisis in West Virginia," Rep. Greg Walden,R-Ore., Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, and ranking Democrat Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.,N.J., said in a statement.

More articles on opioids:

Filling opioid prescriptions postpartum ups risk of persistent use regardless of delivery type
Purdue must release secret OxyContin marketing files, court rules
AMA, PAMED, Manatt Health release Pennsylvania's progress in curbing opioid use

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