A new legal front is opening in the war against the opioid crisis as attorneys begin to pursue major corporations that distribute prescription painkillers. They are seeking billions of dollars in reimbursements for the devastation the drugs have caused, reports the Washington Post. Attorneys in West Virginia, which has the nation’s highest opioid overdose rate, filed lawsuits in federal court yesterday on behalf of two counties, targeting some of the nation’s largest drug distribution companies. A dozen attorneys general in hard-hit states are considering similar suits against many of the same companies. “The purpose of these lawsuits is to make the economic cost of willfully violating the law so significant that we force the wholesalers to abide by the law,” said Paul Farrell Jr., who filed the lawsuits and plans to file cases on behalf of five other counties in the state next week.
The suits are among the first of their kind. They accuse the companies of creating a hazard to public health and safety by shipping inordinate quantities of opioids into the state in violation of a West Virginia law. The law was originally designed to permit the demolition of run-down buildings that posed a public nuisance and threatened the safety of a community. The lawsuits name McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, which distribute 85 percent of the nation’s drugs. Also named are Walgreens, CVS and others. “The unlawful conduct by the defendant wholesale distributors is purposeful and intentional,” the suit says. John Parker, a spokesman for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a trade association that represents the drug distributors, said,“prescription drug abuse is a complex problem and each component of the supply chain shares the responsibility for controlling the availability of opioid pain medications.”