Prescription Opioids: Who Should Be Held Accountable?

prescription opioidsWhen considering who is responsible for the prescription drug epidemic in America, it becomes difficult to determine where to point your finger. Some people blame doctors for rampant over prescribing, others would like to hold as accountable the pharmaceutical industry or the FDA for approving highly addictive prescription opioids for home use. The truth it seems is that there are a number of different entities which had a hand in creating the crisis we face today.

Naturally, some states have taken a harder hit than others, the byproduct of state laws which made it possible for people to gain greater access to powerful opioids, such as OxyContin (oxycodone). Data shows which states have had the highest opioid overdose rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of fatal drug overdoses. In the year 1999, which is often considered the time when the opioid problem began, the fatal overdose rate was 4.1 per 100,000 people. By 2010, West Virginia’s rate was 28.9 overdose deaths per 100,000, which was mainly attributed to prescription opioids. The staggering surge in opioid overdose deaths in the state has some lawmakers demanding accountability.

Wholesale Prescription Opioids?

The attorney general of West Virginia has filed a lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest prescription drug wholesalers, the Insurance Journal reports. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has accused San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation of violating state consumer protection laws and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

The lawsuit claims that one of the major factors that contributed to West Virginia’s prescription drug abuse problem was McKesson Corp., which failed to detect, report and stop suspicious drug orders, according to the article. Between 2007 and 2012, McKesson distributed 99.5 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia.

“This failure is one cause of many for the state’s prescription drug overdose rate, decreased worker productivity and the wasteful expenditure of precious state resources,” Morrisey said.

Collective Responsibility/Collective Solutions

While, if the allegations are true, McKesson Corp. should share some of the costs of the problem the company had a hand in creating throughout the state, prescription drug distribution companies did not act alone. The industry itself needs to be held accountable and changes need to be made regarding the handling of pain management and how pharmaceutical companies are allowed to market.

“The flooding of prescription pills into our state is a very serious problem that involves all parts of the pharmaceutical supply channel,” said Morrisey. “No one group or industry sector is solely responsible for this problem; a solution must involve many actors, including doctors, pharmacies, wholesalers, manufacturers and government bodies.”

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