McGraw, vampire of progress

When it comes to business, we always seem to be out for more blood. Again this week West Virginia made the news as being among the "holdout" states demanding more money from drugmaker Eli Lilly. The company is paying $1.4 billion to the U.S. government and 30 states, after being accused of promoting "off label" uses for one of its products, the anti-psychotic Zyprexa. Zyprexa, a godsend to those suffering from schizophrenia and severe mental illness, came under fire in 2002 when a controversial report claimed it increased a patient's chances of getting diabetes. Subsequent reports have suggested the opposite. But lawyers already were off and suing on their own and on behalf of some states, claiming the company caused states to overspend Medicaid dollars along with other supposed misdeeds. If that line sounds familiar, it's because Attorney General Darrell McGraw used the same one when he so infamously took on drugmaker Purdue Pharma. After "curing" that overspending, he allocated much of the settlement money for private trial lawyers fees and pet projects. To nobody's surprise, West Virginia is among the 12 states dissatisfied with the record-setting settlement, angling to squeeze more out of Eli Lilly if it can. We West Virginia citizens are the plaintiffs in this case, but its our lawyers -- private lawyers selected by McGraw -- driving the strategy. They want their own agreement -- one richer than the richest one ever. And why not? When a plaintiff's lawyer has the gale force power of the state behind it and a multi-billion dollar company like Eli Lilly in the crosshairs, why settle for less, the thinking seems to be. Our lawyers -- Charleston's Troy Giatras (a McGraw political donor), J. Jeaneen Legato and H. Blair Hahn of South Carolina -- are part of the "holdout" group demanding another billion dollars of which lawyers could net about $400 million in contingency fees and "expense" reimbursement. So what else might we get for their boldness? More lawsuits, that's what, plus the assurance that America's most innovative and expansion-minded companies will continue to avoid West Virginia like the plague.

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