A congressional committee is investigating why America's largest prescription drug distributors shipped an outrageous number of pain pills to West Virginia.
That state is one of the hardest hit as America battles an ever-worsening opioid addiction crisis. In fact, West Virginia saw the nation's highest number of painkiller overdoses in 2015.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is asking AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson companies to provide information about their sales of hydrocodone and oxycodone to customers in West Virginia.
The committee is also probing into whether the federal Drug Enforcement Administration adequately enforces laws regarding the sale of prescription painkillers and if the agency properly monitors unusual opioid sales.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that over a period of six years, drug distributors "showered the state with 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, while 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers."
"The unfettered shipments amount to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia," the newspaper reported.
The House committee remarked that in the tiny town of Kermit, population 392, just one pharmacy "received nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills over two years."
The Washington Post reported that pill distributors "sent 66 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone into Kanawha County, population 190,000."
Painkiller addiction is fueling America's heroin crisis. Three-fourths of all heroin addicts are said to have been addicted to painkillers first. Now heroin has become cheaper and more easily accessible than pain pills.
Some health experts believe the key to gaining control over the heroin outbreak is reducing the number of people who become addicted to prescription pain pills.
Some states, such as Ohio and New Jersey, are implementing new laws limiting the amount of pain pills doctors may prescribe to their patients.