GOP chairman threatens to subpoena DEA over investigation into 'pill dumping' in West Virginia

GOP chairman threatens to subpoena DEA over investigation into 'pill dumping' in West Virginia
© Greg Nash

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) on Wednesday threatened to subpoena the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for data on "pill dumping" in West Virginia that could be contributing to the state's opioid crisis. 

Walden said the agency is taking too long to comply with the Energy and Commerce Committee's May 8 request for information regarding drug suppliers pumping millions of opioids into the state West Virginia. 

"Enough is enough. Will you, on behalf of the DEA, commit today to producing the documents and information we requested, and soon? Or do we simply need to issue a subpoena? Because we are done waiting," Walden, the panel's chairman, said to DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator Neil Doherty at a hearing. 

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The agency has responded to some, but not all, requests for information, Walden said, adding that some responses have been inadequate. 

"I'm going to be very blunt: my patience is wearing thing," he said.  

"Our requests for data from the DEA are met with delay, excuses and frankly, inadequate response. People are dying. Lives and families are ruined." 

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. 

In six years, drug wholesalers sent 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, according to an investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail. 

Committee members said on Wednesday that these practices may have "exacerbated" the opioid addiction problem facing West Virginia. 

"It is time for DEA to get this committee the information we need, and to do it quickly," Walden said. 

"No more dodges. No more delays." 

Walden specifically asked which drug suppliers were dumping the opioids into the state, but didn't get an answer.

"I hope you can appreciate our frustration on this side. We have been trying to get to the bottom of this pill dumping for a very long time," Walden said. 

"To me, this is a pretty basic question. Who are the suppliers?" Walden asked. 

Doherty said the DEA will expedite outstanding requests from the committee. 

"We appreciate your concern, and absolutely, we are treating it with the utmost importance, as it should be treated," Doherty said. 

"We will make every effort to expedite every request that is outstanding to the committee." 

Fellow committee members echoed Walden's frustrations. 

"If I were you, I would go back, get the answers in plain English as quickly as possible," said Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Week ahead: House GOP looks to revamp Energy Department Republicans on the run: Retirements could be trouble for Trump and party MORE (R-Texas). 

"If you don't... I am going to recommend to the chairman that we bring the wrath of this committee down on the DEA. It is inexcusable when people are dying every day from opioid overdoses that we've got, apparently, a three-month, four-month, running dodge from the Trump administration."