Opioids: Hearings may find answers we need

It has been apparent to West Virginians for years that some pharmaceutical companies, and the unethical doctors and pharmacists who cleared their path — helped create the drug abuse crisis by flooding our state with opioid painkillers. Lawsuits have been filed or are planned. “Pill mills” have been shut down. State officials have condemned the villain firms. Our members of Congress have complained loudly.

Finally, Congress as an institution seems to have noticed.

The House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce plans to hold hearings on the issue. In a statement, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and its ranking minority member, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., referred to the number of pain pills shipped into our state as “outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia.”

Better late than never, we suppose. Still, one has to wonder how many lives might have been saved — and how many patients with legitimate need for opioid mediation might have fewer hoops to jump through — if Congress had focused attention on the problem and demanded answers about it sooner.