Review of Death in Mud Lick
Dwight Garner, “How Painkiller Pushers Took over Coal Country.” nyt
Eric Eyre, the reporter who wrote this book, won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2017. One of the important things he did was to expose, for the first time, in exact numbers, opioid shipments to West Virginia. These were eye-opening statistics that made the responsibility for this crisis real to many people.
In the book, Eyre started with a story of one pharmacy in Kermit, WV, population 382. In two years, the Sav-Rite in Kermit distributed nearly nine million opioid pain pills to its customers. People were driving hundreds of miles to get to this particular pharmacy, bypassing other pharmacies. Once there, the lines were so long, the owner sold hot dogs and popcorn to people waiting in the drive-in lane.
Most of the recipients started off with some kind of injury, usually work related. But they very quickly found doctors willing to write prescriptions for pain medication and anti-anxiety drugs on top of that. The toll was soon to follow – addicted babies, full jails, families destroyed, hospital emergency rooms overrun.
Eyre, unlike many journalists covering the same story, went after the big fish in the story, not the cash rich pharmacy owners or even the corrupt doctors, but the real high-level drug pushers. He called what happened in West Virginia “a man-made disaster fueled by corporate greed and corruption.”
Eyre, for example, took aim at Cardinal Health (a drug wholesaler), which “sent more pain pills into West Virginia than any other company.” Between 2007 and 2012, Cardinal sent a combined 240 million pills into WV. That was 130 pain pills for every resident. “The coal barons,” Eyre wrote, “no longer ruled Appalachia. Now it was the painkiller profiteers.”
Among the long list of villains in this story is West Virginia’s Trump loving attorney general, Patrick Morrisey. Morrisey tried to derail Eyre’s investigation of Cardinal at the same time his (Morrisey’s) wife was being paid to lobby for the company. According to Eyre (4/28/18) “Cardinal Health paid Denise Morrisey and her lobbying firm $1.4 million after her husband became attorney general…”
Morrisey also had ties to the company of his own.
At the same time his wife was lobbying on behalf of Cardinal Health, Morrisey’s office was overseeing a lawsuit that accused Cardinal Health of “fueling the opioid epidemic by shipping excessive amounts of hydrocodone and oxycodone to the state.”
Morrisey stepped aside from the case only after the Charleston Gazette reported that his inaugural party was paid for by Cardinal Health.
In 2008, Cardinal Health paid a $34 million fine to settle allegations that it had shipped hydrocodone to rogue Internet pharmacies that filled bogus prescriptions. In 2016, Cardinal Health paid $44 million for opioid shipping violations.
MORRISEY IS STILL WEST VIRGINIA’S ATTORNEY GENERAL.
MORRISEY NARROWLY LOST HIS BID TO BECOME A U.S. SENATOR.
CARDINAL HEALTH IS STILL IN BUSINESS.
MORRISEY’S WIFE IS STILL A LOBBYIST FOR THE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY.
ERIC EYRE LEFT THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL LAST WEEK.
Eyre (4/28/18) https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/politics/morrisey-s-wife-lobbied-on-opioids-for-drug-firm-disclosures/article_be3d9ee8-00e1-570c-b161-c7b59c7c31d0.html
Cardinal Health lists on its website: “Cardinal Health: We Supply Everything You Need.
Heller, Matthew ()“Cardinal Health Fined $8M for FCPA violations.” https://www.cfo.com/legal/2020/03/cardinal-health-fined-8m-for-fcpa-violations/
Review in New York Times: Death in Mud Lick