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Bernie Sanders Demands Investigation of Big Pharma Pushing Opioid Drugs

© AP Photo / David BeckerDemocratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Las Vegas - Sputnik International
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is demanding an investigation into multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies that he claims have been pumping highly-addictive opioids into small towns in West Virginia.

Sanders’ demands come after the Charleston Gazette-Mail published a two-part investigation into Big Pharma companies pushing the drugs into the state amid a massive overdose crisis — profiting off the deadly epidemic.

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“Large, multi-billion dollar corporations should not make billions pushing addictive drugs,” Sanders tweeted on Tuesday. “They should be investigated and prosecuted.”

The paper obtained previously confidential drug sales records sent from the US Drug Enforcement Administration to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office. The records revealed that over the course of six years, the "Big Three wholesalers," McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen had shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to the state.

"The unfettered shipments amount to 433 pain pills for every man, woman, and child in West Virginia," investigative reporter Eric Eyre wrote in the Gazette-Mail.

During the same time period, 1,728 people in West Virginia overdosed on those two painkillers.

"As the fatalities mounted—hydrocodone and oxycodone overdose deaths increased 67 percent in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012—the drug shippers' CEOs collected salaries and bonuses in the tens of millions of dollars. Their companies made billions,” Eyre wrote.

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His investigation also found that the state Board of Pharmacy, meant to oversee and flag suspicious orders of potentially-lethal drugs, often overlooks cases.

“In Southern West Virginia, many of the pharmacies that received the largest shipments of prescription opioids were small, independent drugstores like ones in Raleigh and Wyoming counties that ordered 600,000 to 1.1 million oxycodone pills a year,” Eyre wrote. “Or they were locally owned pharmacies in Mingo and Logan counties, where wholesalers distributed 1.4 million to 4.7 million hydrocodone pills annually.”

In contrast, the author noted that one of the busiest Wal-Marts in the state was only shipped approximately 5,000 oxycodone and 9,500 hydrocodone pills each year.

Sanders, whose presidential campaign had generated much excitement and enthusiasm, has never been shy in his efforts to take on Big Pharma.

Recently in California, Sanders campaigned to pass Proposition 61, an ultimately-rejected effort to lower the costs of prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies spent more than $100 million to defeat the effort.

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