CHARLESTON – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin claims state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office is close to reaching a “horrible” settlement with drug giant McKesson Corporation and wants Gov. Jim Justice to step in.
But the state’s Chief Deputy Attorney General says no offer has been made and that Manchin simply is politicizing an issue two weeks before the general election in which Morrisey squares off against the incumbent Democrat.
During an Oct. 23 press conference and an appearance on MetroNews’ “Talkline” radio program, Manchin says he’s been told by reliable sources that the AG’s office is close to announcing a $35 million settlement with McKesson.
“For the sake of the State of West Virginia please don’t do this deal,” Manchin said during the “Talkline” interview. “We can’t pick up all this cost, and, if we pick up all this costs, we’re going to be basically detrimental to all of the other services that people are depending on.
“Gov. Justice, please, I’m imploring you. I’ve set in your seat before. I know the power you have. Please, jump in and stop this horrible, horrible settlement for the people of West Virginia because it’s going to affect us for a long time.”
Manchin said McKesson’s board is meeting Thursday to discuss the settlement and that Morrisey planned a press conference for Friday. Because of his work as a lobbyist for the drug industry before becoming AG and his wife’s work as a drug industry lobbyist, Morrisey recused himself from the case in 2016 shortly after it was filed.
The lawsuit filed by the AG's office claims McKesson helped trigger West Virginia's drug crisis by sending excessive prescription opioids to the state.
Justice's general counsel, Brian Abraham, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that no final settlement has been reached and that he doesn't know where Manchin is getting his information.
In a statement, Chief Deputy AG Anthony Martin called Manchin’s actions “a shameful attempt to politicize our state’s opioid epidemic” and said it “jeopardizes litigation efforts critical to protect the interest of every West Virginian.”
“Contrary to Manchin’s statements, we have received no offer and there has been no scheduling of a Friday press conference by our office,” Martin said. “Anything said to the contrary is utterly dishonest and furthermore ignores that within hours of its filing, Attorney General Morrisey voluntarily recused himself from the McKesson matter and has not been involved in the case since.”
Martin said the AG’s office has been “a leader in attacking the opioid epidemic.”
“Our more than $47 million settlement with 12 prescription drug wholesalers remains the largest pharmaceutical settlement in the state’s history and the largest of its kind nationwide,” he said. “In fact, Cardinal Health, in paying our state $20 million, has paid more than any other pharmaceutical distributer in the nation to date to settle claims of this kind.”
The communications director for Morrisey’s Senate campaign echoed Martin’s comments.
“This is a desperate political stunt by Joe Manchin to cover up for his pattern of putting his financial and personal interests ahead of the lives of West Virginians,” Nathan Brand said. “In 2007, Manchin sought to use $3 million of pharmaceutical settlement money for a personal helicopter.
“When the cost of lifesaving EpiPens skyrocketed by 400 percent, Manchin went soft on the pharmaceutical company to protect his political and family interests. The bottom line is that Joe Manchin is a dishonest Washington liberal, who sat idly by as the opioid deaths doubled in West Virginia when he was governor.
“West Virginians know Manchin has put his personal, political, and financial interests ahead of the health, safety, and security of the Mountain State.”