WASHINGTON, D.C. (LOOTPRESS) – Congresswoman Miller (R-WV) today provided the following remarks at the Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing outlining the destructive role Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family played in catalyzing and exacerbating the opioid epidemic. Congresswoman Miller described the severe destruction the opioid epidemic has had on West Virginia in her remarks as prepared below:
Today’s hearing is of utmost importance to my state of West Virginia, and many other states across the nation, who are facing the devastating impacts of the opioid epidemic.
In 2018, there were over 46,000 opioid related overdose deaths in the United States. In that same year, we lost over 700 West Virginians to opioid related overdoses. If I could put a face to each of these victims and their families, they’re the person in line next to you at the grocery store or next to you in the pew at church. They are your neighbors and your friends. A single life lost to addiction is one too many, and unfortunately my state has lost thousands of family members over the years to this disease.
Throughout the United States we have seen this epidemic evolve in three stages: first, individuals were overprescribed and abused prescription opioids, the second wave was heroin, and the third wave is synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Studies show that of those who began using opioids in the 2000s, 75% started with prescription opioids. In large part, due to the actions of the company represented before us today. Purdue Pharma recklessly and irresponsibly marketed OxyContin to increase the number of prescriptions to patients, which ultimately resulted in patients becoming addicted to this drug.
We have seen the shift to heroin and other dangerous substances like fentanyl as prescription opioids become too expensive or hard to find. These drugs often pose their own risks as they are found on the street. For example, in 2016, my hometown of Huntington experienced 28 overdoses in a single day as a result of a contaminated batch of heroin. Thanks to the heroic action of our emergency responders, 27 of the 28 lives were saved.
As a result of this epidemic, families have been decimated, children are growing up without parents, and babies are being born exposed to drugs in the womb. For every 1,000 babies born in West Virginia, 56.2 are born exposed to opioids. I have sat with mothers who made the courageous decision to seek treatment, and I have held their babies struggling with symptoms of withdrawal. This epidemic is shaping generations across my own state, and many others.
Since coming to Congress, I have made addressing the opioid epidemic a priority. I have supported our Administration’s work to increase access to naloxone and provided much needed federal dollars to our treatment centers to get folks help on the ground. I have also supported creative community-based solutions that are a result of our local communities coming together and helping our neighbors in need.
While we have made great strides to address this terrible epidemic, we must also ensure we address the actions taken by Purdue Pharma is pushing OxyContin to patients. I hope that we get some answers today.