Two more drug companies settling in pain pill lawsuit

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 28, 2016

MADISON – Two more drug distributors are agreeing to settle claims against them in a lawsuit alleging they fueled the state’s opioid epidemic when they shipped large shipments of pain pills into the state over a period of several years.

Boone Circuit Court Judge William Thompson announced the settlement Dec. 27 and canceled further proceedings. He did not disclose the terms of the settlement.

Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office was directed to provide details by Jan. 9. Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen have denied any wrongdoing

The lawsuit was filed in 2012 by former Attorney General Darrell McGraw against Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Miami-Luken and other smaller drug companies.

Miami-Luken was the first to settle in the lawsuit earlier this year. It reached a $2.5 million settlement with the AG’s office. It also denied any allegation of liability as part of the agreement. Other smaller wholesalers also settled with the AG’s office, too.

Earlier this year, a debate sparked about whether or not to unseal court records in the case. AmerisourceBergen asked for the request to unseal them to be denied. In May, Thompson agreed to unseal them. The Charleston Gazette-Mail made the request to unseal the 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.

Morrisey inherited the suit when he took office in January 2013. He recused himself from the case in January, following a state Lawyer Disciplinary Board investigation into his 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.

AmerisourceBergen is represented by A.L. Emch and Robert O. Passmore of Jackson Kelly; and Meredith S. Auten and Eric W. Sitarchuk of Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

Boone Circuit Court case number: 12-C-141

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