Gauley Bridge sues drug manufacturers for opioid crisis

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 7, 2019

CHARLESTON — The town of Gauley Bridge is suing drug manufacturers for the opioid crisis that has ravaged West Virginia and the rest of the country.

AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., McKesson Corporation, Purdue Pharma L.P., Purdue Pharma Inc., the Purdue Frederick Company Inc., Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Cephalon Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. Ortho- McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc., Noramco Inc., Endo Health Solutions Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Par Pharmaceutical Inc., Par Pharmaceutical Companies Inc., Mallinckrodt PLC, Mallinckrodt LLC., Specgx LLC, CVS Indiana, Rite-Aid Mid-Atlantic Customer Support Center; Kroger Limited Partnership I, Kroger Limited Partnership II, Top RX and Wal-mart Stores were all named as defendants in the suit.

Gauley Bridge claims in six years, the defendants showered West Virginia with 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills. During that time, 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers.

The complaint states that the unregulated shipments amounted to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.

"Prescription opioids are narcotics," the complaints state. "They are derived from and possess properties similar to opium and heroin, and they are regulated as controlled substances."

The plaintiffs claim while opioids can dampen the perception of pain, they also can create an addictive, euphoric high.

"At higher doses, they can slow the user’s breathing, causing potentially fatal respiratory depression," the complaints state. "Most patients receiving more than a few weeks of opioid therapy will experience withdrawal symptoms—including severe anxiety, nausea, headaches, tremors, delirium, and pain—which are often prolonged if opioid use is delayed or discontinued."

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by Rusty Webb of The Webb Law Centre and John D. Hurst of Motley Rice.

The majority of the cases are in federal court and a handful remains in state court.

Last year the White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a report stating the economic cost of the opioid drug epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion, more than six times larger than the most recent estimated costs, according to the council, according to a previous story in The West Virginia Record

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston Case number: 2:18-cv-01392

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Motley Rice The Webb Law Centre PLLC U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Charleston Division

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