Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) are pressing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and top opioid distributors for an update on recommendations of the report, Red Flags and Warning Signs Ignored: Opioid Distribution and Enforcement Concerns in West Virginia.
In May 2017, under then-Chairman Walden's leadership, the Energy and Commerce Committee opened a bipartisan investigation into the distribution of prescription opioids by wholesale drug distributors, with a specific focus on distribution practices in West Virginia, and enforcement practices by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) during the opioid epidemic.In December 2018, the committee released a Majority staff report summarizing its findings after concluding its bipartisan investigation and outlining recommendations DEA and drug distributors should take to ensure critical missteps are not repeated.
In letters to DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon and three opioid distributors - AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson - the Republican lawmakers ask for a status update as to the implementation of the recommendations.
"As Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and leaders of an investigation into opioid distribution, we are following up on the status of recommendations directed to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to address concerns outlined in the December 19, 2018 report, Red Flags and Warning Signs Ignored: Opioid Distribution and Enforcement Concerns in West Virginia,"Walden, Guthrie, and McKinley write in their letter to the DEA.
"While this report focused on a series of missteps and missed opportunities that contributed to the worsening of the opioid epidemic in West Virginia, the report raised grave concerns about distributors’ compliance programs nationwide.The report included recommendations to improve distributors’ programs.In addition, the recently enacted SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act included several provisions to respond to these concerns," the lawmakers continue in their letters to the distributors.
In the letter to the DEA, the lawmakers specifically ask for an update on the actions taken on four recommendations from the report, including how the DEA is establishing guidelines for delaying Immediate Suspension Orders and how diversion resources are being allocated to ensure the regions worst afflicted by the opioid epidemic have adequate staffing and resources.
In letters to the opioid distributors, the lawmakers specifically ask for an update on the actions taken on ten recommendations from the report, including how distributors are monitoring red flags regarding pharmacy orders and how distributors are reporting and tracking suspicious orders.
Last week, the DEA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report detailing the regulatory and enforcement efforts to control the diversion of opioids. The OIG report specifically cites the SUPPORT Act - the Committee-led legislation to combat the opioid crisis that was signed into law on October 24, 2018 - and details how implementation of the law may help address the troubling findings.
These letters come as Committee Republicans launched a new phase in the patient brokering investigation last week, pressed the Administration for an update on SUPPORT Act implementation in August, and called for a continuation of bipartisan work to combat the opioid crisis in February.
To read the letter to the DEA, CLICK HERE.
In May of 2018 during the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing into pill dumping in West Virginia, McKinley grilled executives from five major drug distributors about their role in the opioid crisis.
"I just want you to feel shame about your roles, respectively, in all of this," Rep. David McKinley, said. "I am so frustrated for the people of West Virginia and across this country that you all have not ... stepped up and took more responsibility for this."
Click here to watch a video of McKinley’s full line of questioning.
Click here to watch a Vice News Report on McKinley’s previous questioning of the opioid distributors in the Energy and Commerce Committee.