'Death in Mud Lick' by Eric Eyre tells the story of the opioid crisis in West Virginia and how one pharmacy in Kermit distributed nearly 9M pain pills in two years to a town with 382 people. You do the math. Detailing a public health crisis that illuminates the shocking pattern of corporate greed and its ongoing repercussions for the citizens of West Virginia - and the nation.

Big Pharma

Recently, Donald Trump claimed 'big pharma' spent millions against his re-election. In his Presidency's dying days, he sought to enact legislation to lower drug costs and increase access. In 2016 he ran on this same promise, yet never followed through.

Here in the US, we pay the highest prices worldwide for our medication, and 'big pharma' needs to be reigned in. For as much as they worked at a remarkable speed to be on the brink of delivering a COVID vaccine, many sins remain unatoned for.

Greed and deceit have driven their race for patents and actions in covering up their complicity to drive top-line profitability - two areas, primarily; Opioids and Generic Drugs.  

The opioid abuse in West Virginia is one such example. Through their distributors, drug companies took orders for 9M pills over two years from a small town in Kermit, West Virginia, with 382 people. Hydrocodone, to be specific, is packaged under such brand names as Lortab and Vicodin.

These pills' main destination was the Sav-Rite Pharmacy, which claimed a surge in 'tourists' when challenged by distributors. Lines were so backed up filling prescriptions that the owner started a BBQ in the parking lot where folks queed. There was a 'ring' of notorious doctors across West Virginia and adjoining states that would write prescriptions for people, and the fax machine at Sav-Rite Pharmacy couldn't stay filled with paper to handle all the incoming transmissions. Yet, the drug companies kept shipping their distributors, who kept delivering to Sav-Rite. Even the DEA fighting the war on drugs tried to rationalize the situation. Mired in red tape, failed to act until a reporter for the smallest newspaper ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting dug in. 

The 'Generic Drug' business is just as flawed, and if you want the expose, read 'Bottle of Lies' by Katherine Eban. 

Today, around 90% of our pharmaceutical market comprises generic drugs, and most are manufactured overseas. Our doctors and pharmacists continually reassure us that generic drugs are identical to their brand-name counterparts, just less expensive. 

That's open to debate. What is pretty clear is that documents and testimony from whistleblowers confirm an industry rife with fraud and routinely falsifies data. Industry executives who sacrifice safe manufacturing to minimize cost and maximize profit, confident in their ability to fool inspectors. This results in patients consuming medicine with unpredictable and dangerous effects. 

From India, America, Brazil, China, and Africa, the globalization of generic drugs has big money at its core. By moving drug manufacturing overseas to drive costs down, big pharma has taken what should have been one of the greatest public health innovations ever and turned it into a swindle of unimaginable proportion.

A compelling narrative of investigative reporting, 'Bottle of Pills' illustrates the pressure on big pharma to 'file first' for patents and the lack of regulatory oversight that puts all of us at risk when it comes to the medicine prescribed and consumed.