- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

MADISON, W.Va. (AP) - Information about pill shipments that prescription drug distributors being sued by the state had sought to keep secret show that the firms flooded rural West Virginia with hundreds of thousands of painkillers.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports (http://bit.ly/1OKAs0Y) a Boone County judge on Monday ordered the release of previously sealed court documents about prescription pain pill shipments to the state.

The drug distributors had been fighting to keep the pill shipment numbers under wraps in a lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office and other agencies, alleging the firms helped fuel the prescription drug problem in West Virginia. The state has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.

Court records show the drug distributors shipped large quantities of oxycodone and hydrocodone tablets to small towns like War, Kermit, Oceana, Van and Crab Orchard, supplying mom-and-pop pharmacies that filled prescriptions from doctors.

The records show one distributor shipped more than 300,000 hydrocodone tablets over four years to a pharmacy in War, population 808.

Records show another distributor supplied 149,000 hydrocodone pills to a pharmacy in Williamson in 2009.

“The distribution of vast amounts of narcotic medications to some of the smallest towns and unincorporated rural areas of our state should have set off more red flags than a school of sharks at a crowded beach,” said Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne.

One distributor, AmerisourceBergen, issued a statement Monday.

“At AmerisourceBergen, we are committed to the safe and efficient delivery of controlled substances to meet the medical needs of patients,” said Lauren Moyer, a company spokeswoman. “We work diligently to combat diversion and are working closely with regulatory agencies and other partners in pharmaceutical and healthcare delivery to help find solutions that will support appropriate access while limiting misuse of controlled substances.”

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.

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