West Virginia County Sues Drug Distributors Over Opioid Epidemic
A West Virginia county is suing ten drug distributors, including subsidiaries of CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart. Also included in the lawsuit are Cardinal Health, Kroger, McKessen, and others. The county is accusing the companies of inundating the state with prescription opioid painkillers, and directly contributing to the historic increases in opioid addiction and drug overdoses.
Cabell County, near West Virginia’s Ohio border, has a population of around 96,000. The lawsuit alleges, however, that the drug distributors sold retailers something close to an incredible 40 million doses of painkillers from 2007-2012.
The complaint was filed this week in a federal court and states the companies “released a seemingly endless supply of prescription opiates into Cabell County…”
The companies, who have not yet responded to allegations, sell prescription drugs such as hydrocodone and have oft been accused by states of fueling the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
In 2015, more than 33,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl. West Virgina has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation – around 41 deaths per 100,000 people.
Some of the companies being sued by Cabell County are no stranger to such lawsuits. The state of West Virginia sued Cardinal Health in 2012, resulting in a $20 million settlement. The state alleged that the company wittingly sold millions of drugs to sketchy pharmacies that handed out medication without pause.
The city of Huntington, located in Cabell County, also filed a lawsuit against Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen in January of this year.
The complaint, which is 38 pages long, states that the drug distributors “breached their duty to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates” and repeatedly pointed out DEA rule violations.
The lawsuit seeks economic damages and accuses the companies of consistently disregarding the law, knowing full well profits would outweigh any legal penalties they may incur:
“The epidemic still rages because the fines…do not change the conduct of the wholesale distributor industry. They pay fines as a cost of doing business in an industry which generates billions of dollars in annual revenue.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology