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Bipartisan Committee Leaders Expand Investigation into Alleged Pill Dumping in West Virginia


09.26.17

Committee Probes Fourth Drug Distributor with Ties to State


Bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to Miami-Luken, a drug distributor, expanding on its existing investigation into alleged pill dumping in the state of West Virginia. The letter was sent by full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), full committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV).

The committee has been investigating the alleged pill dumping in West Virginia since earlier this year and stems from news reports by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and The Washington Post, detailing an unusually large opioid presence in the state of West Virginia.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports, “For years, Miami-Luken did the bulk of its West Virginia business in Mingo County, which has about 27,000 people. Between 2007 and 2012, 63 percent of the distributor’s hydrocodone shipments in West Virginia went to Mingo County, DEA records show. The company sold 14.7 million doses of hydrocodone to Mingo over six years.”

“We continue to be troubled by reports and records that show large amounts of these powerful and highly addictive painkillers coming in to small communities at alarming rates. As we have continued our investigation, it became increasingly clear that we needed to extend our oversight into Miami-Luken, a significant opioid distributor that we know has been active with West Virginia’s pharmacies,” Chairman Walden and Ranking Member Pallone told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “West Virginia is among the hardest hit states by this epidemic and it’s critical we get to the bottom of how such large quantities of opioids were readily available in such small towns.”

Click HERE to read a copy of the letter.

Congressional Opioid Investigation Targets Drug Wholesaler Miami-Luken

September 25, 2017

A congressional committee investigating West Virginia’s opioid epidemic has directed prescription drug distributor Miami-Luken to turn over documents amid allegations that the firm shipped massive amounts of powerful painkillers to the state’s southern counties and failed to report “suspicious” orders from local pharmacies.

On Monday, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested Miami-Luken provide copies of personnel records related the Ohio company’s former top executive, who was stripped of duties to flag suspect pain-pill orders.

The panel also wants files that detail Miami-Luken’s painkiller shipments to four Southern West Virginia drugstores: Westside Pharmacy, in Oceana; Colony Drug, in Beckley; Tug Valley Pharmacy, in Williamson; and the former Sav-Rite Pharmacy, in Kermit.

Miami-Luken sold prescription drugs valued at more than $3 million a year to the Kermit pharmacy over six consecutive years, bankruptcy records show. Kermit, a town in Mingo County, along the Kentucky border, has fewer than 400 residents.

The Drug Enforcement Administration cited Miami-Luken’s questionable drug shipments in a “show-cause” order that’s part of a separate ongoing federal investigation, according to a letter the House committee sent to the company Monday. Miami-Luken, headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, is fighting the DEA’s effort to revoke the wholesaler’s license to distribute opioids and other controlled substances.

“As we have continued our investigation, it became increasingly clear that we needed to extend our oversight into Miami-Luken, a significant opioid distributor that we know has been active with West Virginia’s pharmacies,” said committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., in a joint statement. “West Virginia is among the hardest hit states by this epidemic and it’s critical we get to the bottom of how such large quantities of opioids were readily available in such small towns.”

The DEA order discloses that a Miami-Luken sales representative reported to his superiors in 2008 that Tug Valley Pharmacy’s painkiller sales were unusually “high,” noting that the pharmacy filled prescriptions from nearby pain clinics. But his superiors at the company failed to investigate whether the prescriptions were legitimate, according to the committee’s letter.

Miami-Luken shipped 27 orders of hydrocodone — a total of 258,000 doses of the prescription painkiller that’s better known under brand names like Lortab and Vicodin — to Tug Valley Pharmacy in just one month in 2009, according to the DEA. That’s more than 10 times what a typical retail pharmacy in rural West Virginia receives each month, the committee’s letter says.

Miami-Luken also was a major supplier to the Sav-Rite Pharmacy, according to bankruptcy records and the committee’s letter. The DEA alleges that Miami-Luken “failed to maintain effective controls against diversion” of hydrocodone between 2008 and 2011, when the Mingo County pharmacy purchased 10.8 million doses of the painkiller.

For years, Miami-Luken did the bulk of its West Virginia business in Mingo County, which has about 27,000 people.

Between 2007 and 2012, 63 percent of the distributor’s hydrocodone shipments in West Virginia went to Mingo County, DEA records show. The company sold 14.7 million doses of hydrocodone to Mingo over six years.

Elsewhere, Westside Pharmacy, in Wyoming County, had been limited to buying 6,000 doses of oxycodone (sold under brand names like OxyContin) per month. But Miami-Luken’s shipments exceeded that limit every month from September 2008 to December 2015. The company only reported that it received one suspicious order from Westside, according to the DEA’s order.

The DEA also cites Miami-Luken’s questionable shipments to Colony Drug, in Raleigh County. In March 2008, for instance, the company shipped 16,400 doses of oxycodone to the Beckley pharmacy. The next month, Miami-Luken sent 37,200 oxycodone doses to Colony — a 127 percent jump. The distributor never investigated the increase, according to the DEA. …

Between 2007 and 2012, Miami-Luken was the fourth-largest distributor of pain pills in West Virginia, according to DEA data. The company shipped 20.4 million hydrocodone doses and 8.2 million oxycodone doses to West Virginia pharmacies during those years.

Committee members have said the reported “possible oversupply” of powerful painkillers suggests “such practices may have exacerbated the opioid problem in the state” as many addicts have switched from prescription pain pills to street drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation — and the deaths are rising. At last count, 879 people fatally overdosed on drugs in 2016 — a record number. …

Read the full article online HERE.

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