West Virginia has the highest drug-overdose death rate in America – and one of the highest opioid prescription rates, as well.
Now, West Virginia also is trying to take the lead in lawsuits filed by local politicians against opioid drug makers.
Chapmanville, pop. 1,256, is the latest to get into the act.
Mayor Raaimie Barker’s complaint, filed in Logan Circuit Court last week, predictably blames “multibillion-dollar companies,” claiming they “descended upon Appalachia for the sole purpose of profiting.”
“These drugs were diverted, misused, and abused to the point where citizens of West Virginia … lost their jobs, health, and even their lives,” the complaint continues.
Barker’s referring, no doubt, to drug abusers who find various illegal ways to access prescription pills.
It’s ridiculous to believe a company should be held solely responsible for conscious, deliberate misuse of their products.
These drugs, used correctly, are life-changing for so many. But like most anything we can put into our body, they can also be used by people to hurt themselves.
No lawsuit settlement will change this.
Moreover, the prospective precedent set by a court that might entertain this kind of liability could have dire consequences for the companies involved that do valuable research into other illnesses that plague us.
Nobody denies that the source of Barker’s anguish is real and tragic. Drug abuse is tearing apart too many of our communities.
But his blame game, while perhaps cathartic, will serve to make the problem worse, diverting responsibility from the only people who can solve it: ourselves.