WASHINGTON – Two members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation are criticizing Cardinal Health’s inclusion of a Huntington neonatal clinic as helping create the opioid abuse problem.
In a federal court filing, Cardinal Health listed Lily’s Place, which provides care for newborns exposed to drugs, as one of 1,949 organizations, pharmacies, doctors and others for having “potential fault” in Huntington’s opioid problem.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, a Republican, said the drugmaker should be ashamed of making such an accusation.
“I helped start Lily’s Place with dedicated nurses, doctors and community leaders to be part of the solution to the opioid crisis ravaging West Virginia,” Jenkins said. “Lily’s Place focuses solely on helping newborn babies whose tiny bodies have been ravaged by the effects of drug withdrawal.
“Lily’s Place is a model of care highlighted in legislation I introduced that was signed into law last year and shows how a community can band together to help the most innocent victims of this epidemic. To accuse Lily’s Place of contributing to the drug crisis demonstrates a willful ignorance of the true causes of the opioid epidemic.”
Jenkins said Cardinal is throwing out a “dragnet … trying to deflect attention from their own behavior.”
“Cities and counties throughout West Virginia and elsewhere are aggressively pursuing those who allegedly played a significant role in the opioid crisis,” he said. “Lily’s Place needs to be taken off of this list and given an apology.”
Jenkins said he and others worked three years to get Lily’s Place up and running. And in its three years of existence, the facility has treated nearly 200 newborns battling the ravages of withdrawal.
Lily’s Place provides treatment for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a syndrome that forms after birth in infants suffering from opioid withdrawals. West Virginia has the highest rate of NAS in the country, and Lily’s Place handles overflow from hospitals in the Huntington area. The non-profit is also the first clinic to provide counseling and treatment to parents.
Jenkins said Lily’s Place helps eight babies at a time, and the average stay is several weeks. He also said that in treating those eight babies a day, the facility dispenses a total of two teaspoons of medicine per week. No adults receive treatment at Lily’s Place.
“It’s a shameless act by Cardinal to point a finger at an organization doing so much good,” Jenkins said. “A newborn baby is the most victimized of all of the victims of the opioid crisis. It’s just outrageous.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, also was critical of Cardinal Health’s accusation of Lily’s Place.
“I’m shocked and appalled that Cardinal Health would have the gall to blame Lily’s Place for fueling the current opioid epidemic,” Manchin said. “Lily’s Place works tirelessly to save infants stricken by the opioid crisis.
“Cardinal Health’s claim is an attempt by a large corporation to deflect their responsibility onto the very people who work selflessly to stop the problem they helped cause. These accusations not only show Cardinal Health’s callousness, but also their unwillingness to assist in stopping the epidemic that continues to plague West Virginia.”
In the July 19 court filing, Cardinal Health listed Lily’s Place under pharmacies. It does have a license to dispense drugs such as methadone to wean babies during treatment. In the filings, Cardinal says filing the notice that included Lily’s Place is a “procedural step” in the event the case goes to trial.
Cardinal “does not believe or assert that any of its customer pharmacies engaged in any diversion of controlled substance, but cannot say that it is not possible that some may have done so without Cardinal Health’s knowledge,” the notice states.
Among the other businesses listed by Cardinal are more than 100 pharmacies, hundreds of physicians, several assisted living centers, Huntington Work Release Center, Hospice of Huntington, Cammack Children’s Center, Marshall Health, St. Mary’s Medical Center, several mail-in pharmacies, the mayor of Huntington, the police department, the fire department, county commissions, the West Virginia State Police, dozens of individuals who were arrested for drug-related crimes and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Cardinal health claims the City of Huntington’s amended complaint fails to provide factual allegations to support its generic, conclusory, group-pled allegations that target wholesale drug distributors with no identifying detail whatsoever regarding all the other participants in the closed legal system relating to controlled substances.
The city of Huntington is suing Cardinal Health and other wholesale drug distributors, alleging that the companies’ prescription painkiller shipments helped fuel a heroin epidemic that has ravaged the town with a record number of fatal overdoses.
In its notice, Cardinal Health claimed it would remove names from the list after the city identified which pharmacies; physicians; convicted drug dealers; pharmaceutical manufactures; non-party drug distributors; health insurers; and federal, state and local government entities did not break the law.
In a footnote in the filing, Cardinal Health claimed that it does not believe or assert that any of its customer pharmacies engaged in any diversion of controlled substance, but cannot say that it is not possible that some may have done so without Cardinal Health’s knowledge.
“If and when Plaintiff admits that any pharmacy did not place suspicious orders, Cardinal Health will consider amending this Notice,” the footnote continues. “In addition to the pharmacies within the City listed below, Cardinal Health reserves the right to supplement this Notice with pharmacies outside of the City, if it is revealed through discovery that such pharmacies dispensed opioid medications to residents of the City and Plaintiff alleges that such activity is the basis for damages alleged against Cardinal Health.”
In January, Cardinal Health paid $20 million to the state to settle its part in a lawsuit that alleged it had shipped excessive amounts of powerful painkillers to the state. With other drug distributors, the total settlement of the lawsuit was more than $40 million.
Multiple counties and cities across the state have filed lawsuits against Cardinal, along with other drug distributors, since January.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:17-cv-01362