West Virginia has 31 separate circuit courts, so tracking the latest grievance filed by Attorney General Darrell McGraw on his ... er ... our behalf is like hunting needles in haystacks.

Track down his handiwork, however, and that's where the mystery ends. Like all shakedown artists, McGraw's efforts are never original.

So goes the dejà vu you may have felt last week, reading of the latest anti-pharma salvo coming out of the Mountain State. This time, McGraw is suing Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly over its anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa, if only because his parroting staff saw somebody else make specious claims against the company a few states over.

Say what you want about our state government's "consumer protection" lawyers, they're quite adept at the "cut-and-paste."

Thus this allegation, and McGraw's proposed remedy, will ring familiar. Eli Lilly "misled" West Virginians into misusing Zyprexa, and the company should pay by setting up a multi-million dollar slush fund McGraw can use to compensate the state, which he claims has spent $70 million on the drug over the past decade.

You know what they say about the "once bitten." The last time this happened, drug maker Purdue Pharma paid $10 million to our state to "solve" the problem of in-state drug addicts crushing and snorting pills of its painkiller OxyContin. Lawyers got rich, collecting more than one-third of the loot, while McGraw got the rest, set aside in a bank account under his control.

No, the money didn't go to reimburse the state for the "millions" he claimed it was fraudulently induced to spend -- incidentally McGraw's only basis for the lawsuit in the first place. Instead, it's currently being doled out secretly and selectively to "Friends of Darrell" across West Virginia.

For the state's biggest lightning rod, call it a stroke of political brand-building genius.

That McGraw gets away with this, and that he'll likely strong-arm a similar "settlement" with Eli Lilly (which has better things to do than roll in the mud with a pig) is more than outrageous. For the public at large, it's patently dangerous.

Consider that scientists in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not lawyers from the West Virginia Attorney General's office, determine drug safety. But that hasn't stopped McGraw, in his official capacity representing all of us, from creating a parallel drug regulation regime right here in Charleston.

The FDA says Zyprexa is safe and beneficial to Americans, while West Virginia says it's unsafe and not worth the risks. Who to believe?

For all of our health and safety, let's pray the former. It's in nobody's interest that, on our state's recommendation, those suffering from schizophrenia or bi-polar disorders decide not to take their medication.

Rest unassured, when someone doesn't and the result is tragic, West Virginia won't find Darrell McGraw standing up to take the blame.

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