WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) today held a hearing examining the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) role in combating the opioid crisis.
Specifically, #SubOversight questioned DEA Acting Administrator Robert Patterson about several findings arising from the committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation into alleged pill dumping in West Virginia.
#FullCmte Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) asked Acting Administrator Patterson about the Sav-Rite pharmacies located in Kermit, West Virginia, a town with a population of approximately 400 people.
“We have learned that in 2008, a second Sav-Rite location opened, just two miles away from the original pharmacy,” said Chairman Walden in his opening remarks. “However, the second Sav-Rite was forced to close and surrender its DEA registration after it was raided by federal agents in March 2009. In most instances, this would be a success story. But in this case, the original Sav-Rite pharmacy—the one that received 9 million pills in just two years—stayed open for more than two years. In those two years, Sav-Rite #1 dispensed about 1.5 million pills into the community. How is this possible?”
DEA Acting Administrator Patterson listens to a member question.
During Chairman Walden’s questioning, he asked Acting Administrator Patterson about Immediate Suspension Orders (ISOs), a DEA tool to intervene in cases of pill dumping.
“During the time the DEA allowed Sav-Rite #1 to remain in operation, this pharmacy received somewhere between one and two million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills,” detailed Chairman Walden. “Allowing Sav-Rite #1 to dispense such a volume of opioids posed a continuing risk to public health and safety, isn’t that right?”
Acting Administrator Patterson responded saying he agreed with that assessment.
Acting Administrator Patterson responded saying that “Our ARCOS data, pre-probably 2010, was an extremely manual process. As that system has gotten more robust and certainly through the last handful of years we’ve used that in a much more proactive manner.”
Tug Valley Pharmacy in Williamson, West Virginia.
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) cited the amounts of opioids in two Williamson, West Virginia pharmacies, remarking, “Between 2006 and 2016, Tug Valley Pharmacy received over 10 million doses of opioids from 13 different distributors. This includes over three million pills just in 2009. Administrator Patterson, this is an unbelievable quantity of opioids for a pharmacy this size in a town of 3,000. Does DEA believe the amount of opioids this pharmacy received was excessive?”
Acting Administrator Patterson responded saying, “In 2009, I would say so sir.” When asked by Rep. Tonko if the data was used today, would it have avoided what happened in West Virginia, Acting Administrator Patterson replied, “I would hope so.”
#SubOversight Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) stressed the severity of the alleged pill dumping in West Virginia, stating, “We spend billions of dollars, we spend countless hours of law enforcement time trying to stop illegal drugs from coming into this country. And here we are, sending millions of doses of opioids to tiny little towns in West Virginia. All of this supposedly legally. I think I can speak for the whole committee to say this needs to stop, it needs to stop now, and we need to figure out how we’re going to protect our constituents and our citizens.”
For more information on today’s hearing, including a background memo, witness testimony, and archived webcast, click HERE.