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Getting the facts on the opioid crisis

Year after year, the opioid epidemic continues to ravage our state. All across Missouri, our communities have lost thousands of neighbors, friends, and loved ones to this public health crisis.

That’s why, at the beginning of last year, I started the largest-ever Congressional investigation into opioid manufacturers and distributors.

I recently released my third report from this investigation—this one specifically examining the flow of opioids into Missouri. The results are stunning.

I found that the top three opioid distributors in America—McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health—together shipped 1.6 billion dosage units of opioid products to Missouri between 2012 and 2017. That’s 260 pills for every man, woman, and child in Missouri.

Under federal law, distribution companies are supposed to take a look at these opioid shipments, compare them to ordering patterns, and catch any suspicious orders where these numbers don’t match up—and the Drug Enforcement Administration is supposed to hold these companies accountable.

Opioid orders of unusual size or frequency can be telltale signs that bad actors might be taking pills and putting them on the black market. The Missouri counties with some of the largest numbers of suspicious order reports also had high rates of hospitalization and death due to opioid overdose. That’s not a coincidence.

Even though this suspicious order monitoring is so important, my report found big differences in the reports distribution companies have filed with the government for Missouri opioid orders, and this may be because the Drug Enforcement Administration hasn’t done enough to enforce the law. I’ve already introduced a bill to strengthen this enforcement, so the agency can do more to prevent opioids from getting on the black market.

At the end of the day, there isn’t a silver bullet that’s going to end the opioid crisis. But when I conduct my persistent fact-finding on the opioid epidemic as the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, it takes me back to my days as a prosecutor, when getting all the facts was the first step to getting justice.

I was fighting for Missourians then, and I haven’t stopped fighting for Missourians now, as we face the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes.

Claire McCaskill

Claire McCaskill

This report was filed July 23, 2018

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