Circuit judge orders court records unsealed in painkiller lawsuit

By Kyla Asbury | May 13, 2016

MADISON – Circuit Judge William Thompson has ordered the records unsealed in a lawsuit against drug wholesalers filed by former Attorney General Darrell McGraw in 2012.

The court records disclose allegations about the number of prescription painkillers the companies have shipped to West Virginia pharmacies in specific towns and regions of the state.

Thompson’s order was filed on May 6 in Boone Circuit Court and was brought about by the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s request for the court to unseal the court records.

In his order, Thompson stated that there was a longstanding right of public and press access to legal proceedings and documents and that that outweighed the drug wholesaler’s argument that the sealed documents included confidential business and sales data.

Thompson also stated that the documents did not include drug sales prices or profits and that it only has speculative value to the drug companies’ competitors. He also gave the companies 14 days to appeal the order to the W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals.

Thompson also ruled that, if the drug wholesalers agreed to settle the lawsuit within the next two weeks, they could keep the amount of pills shipped sealed.

On April 19, AmerisourceBergen asked Thompson to deny the request to unseal the records, arguing that the information the newspaper wanted was available from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy.

In February, Miami-Luken reached a settlement with the state in the amount of $2.5 million.

McGraw filed the lawsuit in Boone Circuit Court in 2012, claiming that the drug companies helped fuel the state’s prescription drug problem by shipping excessive numbers of painkillers to pharmacies in West Virginia.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey inherited the suit when he took office. He recused himself from the case in January, following a state Lawyer Disciplinary Board investigation into his past ties to the drug companies.

Morrisey previously lobbied for a group that represents most of the drug wholesalers in the lawsuit and while the LDB concluded he did not violate any ethics rules, it suggested he step aside from the suit to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Morrisey assigned the case to Chief Operating Officer Anthony Martin and Deputy Attorney General Vaughn Sizemore.

Boone Circuit Court case number: 12-C-141

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