Local

“PAINKILLER PROFITEERS” – CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL

Eric Eyre

The abuse of opioids has become a troubling national story, and Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Eric Eyre spotlighted the local problem in West Virginia with a hard-hitting series of articles about the deluge of prescription drugs that have flooded the state. He showed the human cost of opioid addiction by profiling individuals whose lives and families have been ruined by drug dependency. Using previously confidential records sent by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to the state’s attorney general, Eyre disclosed that “painkiller profiteers” had shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia over a span of six years, at a time when 1,728 people overdosed on the two painkillers. The drug companies and their lawyers fought to keep the sales figures secret, but Eyre’s dogged reporting at the 37,000-circulation daily newspaper spurred change. The state’s pharmacy board voted to enforce the law requiring wholesalers to report suspicious drug orders from pharmacies, and two drug wholesalers abruptly settled legal battles with West Virginia by agreeing to pay a combined $36 million – the largest pharmaceutical settlement in state history – with the money going to drug treatment programs to help those addicted to opioids.

Photos

Gerald Loeb Awards 2017