DEA ripped for failing to stop drug firms from flooding WV with opioids

Members of a House subcommittee criticized the slow federal response to a pattern of extreme opioid oversupply in West Virginia, where there are more drug overdose fatalities than anywhere else in the country.

Members of a House subcommittee criticized the slow federal response to a pattern of extreme opioid oversupply in West Virginia, where there are more drug overdose fatalities than anywhere else in the country. Legislators at the March 20 hearing demanded an explanation for how national and regional drug distributors were able to dump more than 780 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone from 2006–11 in pharmacies of small towns with fewer than 3,000 residents. DEA should have flagged the activity, they insisted, and cracked down immediately. "This is an abject failure," declared Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY). "It means no one is watching." DEA Acting Administrator Robert Patterson acknowledged that his agency dropped the ball "by not proactively leveraging the data that is available to us." It has since moved away from the manual process it was using and adopted an automated drug-tracking database. DEA also is working more closely with states that have prescription-monitoring programs in place. "We use the data in a very different way today," he says.