Three major U.S. drug distributors, McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp, and Cardinal Health Inc, prevailed in a recent opioid case in West Virginia.
A federal judge ruled on Monday that they are not responsible for fueling an opioid epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia.
Huntington and Cabell County were pushing for the country’s top three pharmaceutical distributors to pay $2.5 billion to address a drug crisis caused by a flood of addictive pills in their region.
U.S. District Judge David Faber rejected their demands.
The Opioid Abuse Epidemic
The opioid crisis in Cabell County and Huntington, WV, has taken a considerable toll on the citizens of the area.
The three drug corporations shipped 81 million opioid pills to the small city of Huntington.
The town of 100,000 residents is left wondering how the corporations were able to sell 81 million pills in the city, deny any responsibility, and pretend there’s no fallout.
Federal records show the companies did ship 81 million opioid pills during a nine-year period when West Virginia’s opioid epidemic was spiraling out of control.
Huntington, which stretches along the Ohio River, is in big trouble.
1 in 10 residents in Huntington struggle with opioid use disorder.
Drug overdose deaths surged again last year across West Virginia, up 40%.
Huntington has long been an epicenter of the nationwide opioid addiction and overdose epidemic linked to more than 500,000 deaths over the past two decades.
Following a months-long trial, U.S. District Judge David Faber rejected efforts by the city of Huntington and Cabell County.
The city looked to force the three pharmaceutical distributors to pay $2.5 billion to address a drug crisis resulting from the surge of addictive drugs sold to that area.
Judge Faber conveyed the companies did not cause any oversupply of opioids.
He said that doctors’ “good faith” prescribing decisions drove the volume of painkillers they shipped to pharmacies, and it wasn’t a public nuisance.
“There is nothing unreasonable about distributing controlled substances to fulfill legally written prescriptions,” Faber wrote.
Huntington’s mayor Steve Williams called the decision “a blow to our city and community.”
The city hoped to force the companies to help fund opioid treatment programs.
The treatment programs were part of the 15-year abatement plan that would focus on reducing overdoses, overdose deaths, and the number of people struggling with opioid abuse.
“The citizens of our city and county should not have to bear the principal responsibility of ensuring that an epidemic of this magnitude never occurs again,” Williams added.
The distributors, along with Johnson & Johnson, agreed to pay up to $26 billion last year to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought against them by state and local governments.
However, communities in hard-hit West Virginia decided against joining a national opioid settlement in favor of seeking a more significant recovery.
This ruling adds to the mixed record for opioid cases that have gone to trial nationally.
Last year, Oklahoma and California courts rejected similar claims against drugmakers like J&J.
In November, a federal jury found retail pharmacies CVS Health Corp, Walgreens, and Walmart Inc liable in a case two Ohio counties filed. In December, a New York jury found Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd responsible for a claim by the state and two counties.
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