December 20, 2016

Of course, you can't blame the middleman.

The part of the story you don't get on this video is that the Charleston Gazette-Mail had to sue to get this information from the state government.

Out-of-state drug companies....

Sell NINE MILLION pills in 2 years....

To ONE pharmacy...

In a town whose population is 392. No bells went off, no red flags flown.

And the question is not why 1,728 West Virginians died of Oxy overdose in six years, nor is it why so FEW died.

The question is how do drug companies get away with it, and the answer is money.


HALLIE JACKSON, MSNBC: In West Virginia a new investigation revealing an eye-popping number of painkillers headed into the state. According to a new report from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, drug companies shower the with 780 million painkillers in six years. What does that mean? break it down. 433 pills for every single man, woman and child in the state. Over those six years this report found overdose deaths increased by 67%. All the while heads of the drug firms collected salaries and bonuses in the tens of millions of dollars. The new investigation and following the story. Eric Eyre, walk us through what we should know about really thousands of pages of documents you guys pulled.

ERIC EYRE, CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL: We got all of the sales data for all of the pharmacies where the drug distributors shipped two particular pain pills. One was hydrocodone most people know as lortab or norco and oxycontin. What we found is there was a large number of overdose deaths caused by those two specific drugs. Over the same period there were 780 million pills of both of those particular pain pills that were shipped to West Virginia. The overwhelming majority here, the disproportionate number of pills was shipped to southern West Virginia which we call them the southern coal fields, the poorest and most rural counties.

JACKSON: You talk about the large number of overdose deaths. We have a graphic on the screen now. The top four counties for fatal overdoses caused by pain pills in the US. All four in West Virginia. That shows the extent of the problem. What are legislators, people you're talking to, experts in your state trying to do?

EYRE: Well, they have passed some legislation about two years ago that's had some positive effects. That particular bill targeted the pain clinics sponsored by the governor. They have shut down a good 10 to 12 pain clinics and what was going on at the pain clinics was people were paying cash, usually about $200 or so going into one of the clinics so they might be called pill mills. They were getting prescriptions but they weren't in many cases even seeing doctors. They were just basically cash for scrips is what was going on.

JACKSON: What responsibility do, for example, doctors have with this and talk about, too, your reporting on the response from what you call the big three drug firms basically supplying more than half of the pain pills that went to West Virginia?

EYRE: Well, the doctors have a responsibility to know their patients and prescribe what's medically necessary. What was going on here is people would come in and in many cases wouldn't give a reason for, you know, or maybe they would say they had back pain or something like that or a tooth ache and getting pills. As far as the response from the drug wholesalers, now these are the middlemen. They are the ones that ship the drugs from the manufacturers to the pharmacies and what they have said to this point is that it's really the responsibility of the doctors, that they are just going ahead and filling the massive orders because there are prescriptions going to pharmacies and that's where the problem starts. They say we should be looking at the doctors first and the pharmacies probably second.

JACKSON: Eric Eyre with the Charleston Gazette-Mail. An eye-opening look at the epidemic in West Virginia.

(end of transcript)

And when you think of the (racist) right-wing freak out over Obama pardoning non-violent drug offenders, knowing that the billionaire Big Pharma CEOs make multi-million dollar stock options for killing thousands of poor white people, it's obvious drug justice in this country is upside down.

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