West Virginia Sues Nation’s Largest Drug Supplier Over Sales of Opioid Painkillers

West Virginia is suing McKesson Corporation, the country’s biggest drug supplier, alleging the company distributes painkillers irresponsibly and incentivizes sales of the drugs.

CBS News reports that in a five-year period, the drug wholesaler delivered almost 100 million doses of opioids to West Virginia, which has 1.8 million people, records reveal. The suit alleges that “while West Virginia was drowning in painkillers, McKesson continued to incentivize sales…with bonuses for the sale of oxycodone and hydrocodone.”

Joe Rannazzisi, who was with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for 29 years, told CBS News wholesale distributors play a large part in the prescription opioid epidemic.

“In 2014 almost 19,000 people died from opioid overdose — and we’re not talking about heroin,” Rannazzisi said. “If a pharmacy was ordering 5,000 tablets per month, over a series of months, that’s not a big deal. But one month he orders 30,000 tablets. And then the following month, he orders 60,000 tablets, and now he’s up to 100,000 tablets. Well, the wholesalers were seeing this and no one was filing suspicious orders.”

In a statement, McKesson said, “While we don’t comment on pending litigation, we share the view that the substance abuse epidemic is a serious problem and we will continue to work with our supply chain partners in support of prevention efforts.”

Last month, Congress passed a measure, signed by President Obama, that limited the powers of the DEA to go after pharmacies and wholesalers the agency believes have contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Chain pharmacies and drug distributors said DEA investigations hurt their businesses when the agency ordered immediate closures of pharmacies determined to be destinations for people addicted to opioids who were looking for more pills.

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