Last May, Mingo County hidden in West Virginia’s coal country debated joining a lawsuit against the three largest drug distributors in the United Sates for their part in the region’s growing opioid epidemic. Over a five-year span, three companies are responsible for the distribution of over 420 million pills in West Virginia. The three distributors were prepared for the vote and all sent attorneys for representation.
Cardinal Health, one of the distributors, had not one but three representatives in the meeting to “educate the County Commission” pertaining to the opioid lawsuits other counties. For a Fortune 15 company to send one person to this type of event demonstrates how high the stakes are for a company in this type of litigation.
The stakes are only increasing for companies that manufacture opioids an alarming number of suits are being filed across the nation. Purdue and Teva increasingly are being indicted not only for negligence but aggressive sales tactics as well. In June, thirty-five bipartisan attorney state generals opened an investigation throughout several states to investigate multiple opioid manufacturers. Congressional and Senate investigations of opioid epidemic are also in motion.
Will the opioid epidemic give Big Pharma its Big Tobacco moment? Cigarette makers collected on the largest ever, $248 billion, civil settlement that included 46 states.
That’s a no, states attorney Ken Feinberg. Feinberg believes it can be hard to pin point who to blame for the opioid epidemic. Pain medications are legal drugs controlled by the government. Feinberg states that there are“a whole lot of intermediaries: in the distribution process. “You’re bringing litigation against companies who appear to be complying with the law.”
Feinberg adds speaking on paying for the nation’s epidemic, “I don’t think there’s enough money to cover it”. There continues to be great uncertainty involving the opioid epidemic across the nation.