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Release of DEA's pain pill database highlights need for addiction treatment, prevention resources

(KKTV)
Published: Jul. 24, 2019 at 6:14 PM EDT
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The fallout continues this week after the release of the DEA's database revealing just how many pills flooded communities across the country.

Now local experts are asking -- do we have the resources to prevent a future crisis?

Patrick McGinley is a professor of law at WVU.

He was among those who represented pro-bono the Charleston Gazette-Mail and its parent company in the courts over the course of the last year in a fight that led to the release of the DEA's opioid database.

"Hopefully those who are responsible will have to pay," McGinley said.

The database reveals 76 billion pills were distributed across the country in a seven-year period - and that's just oxycodone and hydrocodone pills.

The release of the data wasn't easy. The government and drug industry tried to keep the numbers secret for years.

"Profit was the motive," McGinley said. "And the disclosure of this information - They knew it would have the impact that it's having."

The database, published by the Washington Post, breaks down the number of pills distributed between 2006 and 2012. It details what distributors, manufacturers and pharmacies played roles in fueling the opioid crisis.

A plethora of lawsuits are working their way through the courts to hold those responsible accountable.

"You can't tell me or any reasonable person that those who distributed, manufactured and sold those drugs didn't know that they were being diverted to illegal purposes," McGinley said.

In the aftermath of the data release, Congressman David McKinley introduced a bill that would require drug manufacturers and distributors to report and halt suspicious pill shipments. Currently, they only have to report their suspicions.

As the fallout continues on the national level, local leaders across the country are charged with solving the problem, despite having access to limited resources.

WVU professor John Temple has written about the opioid crisis and followed it for years.

"I think it's really challenging," Temple said. "Once you create all of these addictions, they last a lifetime."

Robin Pollini, a professor in the WVU School of Public Health, said the data highlights the need to provide resources to confront the issue.

"Once you have drug use entrenched, it's just the drug that changes," Pollini said. "So down the road, it can serve for whatever the substance use problem of the day is. How we solve this problem is more important than looking back and assigning blame for what happened."

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