Opioid distributors to testify before House committee on their role in epidemic

Opioid distributors to testify before House committee on their role in epidemic
© Greg Nash

Opioid distributors will face tough questions from lawmakers next month about their role in the nation's ongoing crisis. 

Five executives of opioid distribution companies will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in May about how millions of pain pills found their way to small West Virginia towns. 

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“For one year, the entire committee — Republicans and Democrats — have pressed five distributors with a presence in West Virginia, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for answers as to how tremendous amounts of pills ended up in these small communities,” said Rep. Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperLawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House GOP lawmaker calls on US Olympic Committee chief to resign MORE, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“Today, we have a more complete picture of what happened in places like West Virginia, and we will hold all parties accountable for their actions. I, along with my colleagues, urge our witnesses to help us complete this puzzle so we can ensure this will never happen again.”

Representatives from McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corporation, Miami-Luken, Inc. and H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Company will testify at the May 8 hearing. 

The Energy and Commerce investigation showed the companies collectively distributed millions of pain pills to small towns in West Virginia, one of states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. 

For example, Miami-Luken sent 4 million pain pills to Oceana, a town of 1,390 people, from 2008 to 2015. 

"This means that in 2014 alone, Miami-Luken provided roughly 689 pills for every man, woman and child in Oceana," the committee noted in a letter to the company in January. 

The hearing comes as Congress steps up action on the opioid crisis.

Both the Energy and Commerce and Senate Health Committee hope to pass legislation addressing the epidemic this spring. 

The Senate Finance Committee also announced Thursday it would hold a hearing April 19 on how to improve Medicare's and Medicaid's response to the opioid epidemic.