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McKinley introduces bill to clarify how drug companies handle 'suspicious orders'

A West Virginia Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill Tuesday to clarify requirements that drug distributors report suspicious orders of controlled substances to law enforcement and block those orders.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., introduced the ‘‘Block, Report, And Suspend Suspicious Shipments Act of 2019.”

Under current law, drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies are required to report orders that appear to be suspicious (by size or frequency) to the Drug Enforcement Agency. A congressional committee recently found drug shippers failed to adequately report or withhold those orders. However, some in the industry have argued the federal guidelines are too vague to follow.

“Between 2006 and 2012, more than 850 million opioid pills were shipped into small communities throughout West Virginia, these drugs have wreaked havoc on our communities and contributed to our state becoming the epicenter of the opioid epidemic,” McKinley said in a statement. “[Distributors] have continued to fall back on the fact that they flagged suspicious orders for the DEA, but what they fail to mention is that they continued to ship these orders even after flagging them as suspicious.”

McKinley sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has investigated drug shippers’ role in the drug epidemic.

The legislation’s introduction comes a week after The Washington Post published data contained in court records showing how drug companies flooded the nation with more than 76 billion opioid pills between 2006 and 2012.

This data was released publicly after The Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail, successfully argued that a federal judge should lift a protective order shielding some of the DEA data.

McKinley’s legislation would require companies to “exercise due diligence” upon discovering a suspicious order, document said “due diligence,” decline to fill the order or orders if “the due diligence fails to dispel all of the indicators that give rise to the suspicion” and notify the DEA of the orders and why they’re suspicious.

Both McKinley and Dingell’s districts are rife with counties that drug companies stuffed with powerful painkilers.

For instance, McKinley’s district contains Hancock County (population 29,000), which received 19.6 million pills in six years, or 91 for every man, woman and child within. The county’s Tri-State Pharmacy, in Weirton, gave out more than 3.5 million pills, the DEA data shows.

Dingell’s district contains parts of Wayne County (population 1.75 million), in Michigan, which fielded more than 618 million prescription pain pills — 46 for every resident. One pharmacy in the county dispensed nearly 17 million pills in those six years, the DEA data shows.

Last week, a federal grand jury in Ohio indicted two Southern West Virginia pharmacists and two former Miami-Luken — one of the largest painkiller providers to the state — executives on charges of conspiring to distribute controlled substances to the region.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at

jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow

@jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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