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Records: Company shipped millions of pills to West Virginia

| Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, 8:51 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An Ohio drug company shipped more than double the number of pain pills to West Virginia as any other supplier over a five-year period, according to federal records.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health Inc. shipped 241 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia between 2007 and 2012. The figures were disclosed in a 2015 court document filed as part of an ongoing state lawsuit in Boone County Circuit Court, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

The 2012 lawsuit against Cardinal Health filed by then-state Attorney General Darrell McGraw alleges the company helped fuel the state's prescription drug problem. West Virginia has the nation's highest drug overdose death rate.

State Delegate Don Perdue, a retired pharmacist, said Cardinal Health's shipments are “an extraordinary number of doses of medication for a small state like ours. This should have raised a red flag at Cardinal.”

West Virginia has a population of 1.84 million residents.

A Cardinal Health spokeswoman didn't immediate respond to a request Sunday for comment.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who defeated McGraw in the 2012 election, recused himself from the Cardinal Health lawsuit in 2013. Morrisey's wife lobbied at the time for Cardinal Health in Washington, D.C. Morrisey's office said she resigned the account this year.

Several other drug wholesalers have settled with the state in a separate lawsuit. According to DEA data cited in that lawsuit, AmerisourceBergen shipped 118.9 million painkillers to West Virginia between 2007 and 2012, while McKesson Corp. shipped 99.5 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills.

Cardinal Health Inc. paid $34 million to the DEA in 2008 to settle claims that the company failed to flag suspicious orders for hydrocodone, the main ingredient in painkillers like Vicodin. A Florida facility of Cardinal Health also was ordered to halt shipments of controlled substances for two years after the DEA alleged it distributed amounts of the powerful pain drug oxycodone far in excess of legitimate medical needs.

Perdue said drug wholesalers should be held to a higher standard.

“This is not like you sold a broken toaster,” Perdue said. “You're selling stuff that can break people.”

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