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Kyle Lovern/Williamson Daily News Tug Valley Pharmacy on Second Avenue in downtown Williamson is closing on Saturday, May 26. All customers will now be handled by CVS Pharmacy in South Williamson, Kentucky.

WILLIAMSON - Tug Valley Pharmacy, where lawmakers said out-of-state drug companies shipped millions of prescription pain killers over the past decade, will close on Saturday.

CVS Pharmacy in South Williamson, Kentucky, has purchased the rights to manage Tug Valley Pharmacy's former patients, a CVS representative said. Patients with valid prescriptions may get their medications at CVS and are not required to bring anything extra.

It is unclear how long the deal between CVS and Tug Valley Pharmacy has been in the works. Someone who answered the phone at Tug Valley Pharmacy hung up on a reporter on Friday.

Tug Valley Pharmacy has been a source of controversy in recent years after lawmakers said it was one of several pharmacies in Mingo County to accept millions of shipments of painkillers over the past decade.

From 2006 to 2016, drug wholesalers shipped 10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug in Williamson, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data reported by the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The data was revealed in January by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the opioid epidemic.

Miami-Luken, an Ohio-based drug wholesaler, sold 6.4 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy from 2008 to 2015, the company disclosed to the committee, according to the Gazette-Mail. The company was also a major supplier to the now-closed Save-Rite Pharmacy in Kermit. In 2008, the company provided 5,624 prescription pain pills for every man, woman and child in Kermit, a population of 800 people, the newspaper reported.

In 2016, the nation's largest prescription painkiller manufacturer announced it was ending shipments of controlled substances to Tug Valley Pharmacy amid a lawsuit. McKesson Corp. terminated its contract with Tug Valley Pharmacy in a phone call in January, the same day West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced he was suing the drug distributor alleging it failed to detect, report and help stop the flood of controlled substances into the state.

Later than year, CBS News ran a reports on the opioid epidemic, confronting former Tug Valley Pharmacy owner Randy Ballengee about the painkiller shipments. The news story alleged Ballengee profited off the prescription painkillers that fueled a deadly epidemic. Ballengee filed a lawsuit against CBS in 2017, alleging the media company defamed him and his business.

In his lawsuit, Ballengee denies ever being investigated by the DEA or the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy. The lawsuit states he "never turned a blind eye" to the opioid epidemic and even denied and banned customers who he felt were abusing drugs.

Ballengee said prescriptions at his pharmacy fell nearly 30 percent after CBS News aired its first segments. He said he was forced to sell his business for $900,000, considerably under its $2.2 million valuation.

Tug Valley Pharmacy was purchased by Delaware -based Corporation Service Company. It lists Joseph Lee, of Winchester, Kentucky, as a principal member, according to its article of incorporation. Tug Valley Pharmacy was founded in Jan. 1, 2006.

Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He may be reached by phone at 304-236-3539.

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