For ten years, two pharmacies just four blocks apart in Williamson, West Virginia, dispensed some 20.8 million prescription painkillers in a town of only 3,191 residents. Those shocking figures were released earlier this year by the congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis that has devastated the Rust Belt.
From December 2002 to January 2010, more than 335,000 prescriptions for painkillers were issued by Dr. Katherine Hoover at a small clinic in the struggling West Virginia town, a rate of about 130 per day.
In a recent interview via NBC News, Hoover argued that she did nothing wrong. "I prescribed narcotics to people in pain. I did everything I could to help people have a better life, which I told the FBI," Hoover said. "Every prescription I wrote was justified for the person who had gotten it."
Hoover, 68, wrote more opioid prescriptions than any other doctor in the state from 2002 to 2010, government investigators said in court documents.
As of 2016, West Virginia became one of the deadliest states for fatal opioid overdoses.
Court records show Hoover arrived in Williamson in 2002 and started working at the Mountain Medical Care Center, a private clinic which took anyone who could pay in cash.
Williamson is a small blue-collar city of some 3,000 residents just across the Tug Fork River from Kentucky. When the coal industry collapsed, it left behind many miners - many of whom were already reliant on painkillers.