BECKLEY — The Greenbrier County Commission has filed a lawsuit against drug manufacturers and distributors it claims played a part in the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.
Greenbrier County is one of several southern West Virginia counties on the frontline of the prescription opiate and heroin epidemic, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The commission documented numerous instances of opioid abuse and opioid-related deaths in the county. The county also reported statewide trends that saw an increase from approximately 30 opioid-related overdose deaths in 1999 (1.8 deaths per 100,000 people) to 733 deaths in 2016 (43.4 deaths per 100,000 people).
In a span of six years from 2007 until 2012, 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 unregulated shipments amounted to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.
"The Community is littered with abandoned buildings in once thriving, working-class neighborhoods, and has seen increases in drug-related crimes and drug use related vehicle accidents," the complaint states. "As a result, property values in the Community have decreased resulting in a decrease in tax revenue to the County."
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by Paul Farrell Jr. and Bert Ketchum of Green Ketchum Farrell Bailey & Tweel; Russell Budd, J. Burton LeBlanc IV, Laura Baughman, S. Ann Saucer, Christine Mansour, Roland Tellis and Mark Pifko of Baron & Budd; James Peterson, R. Edison Hill and Aaron Harrah of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; Anthony Majestro of Powell & Majestro; Peter Mougey, Troy Rafferty, Page Poerschke, Laura Dunning, Neil "Ned" McWilliams and Jeffrey Gaddy of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; and Michael Fuller Jr. and Amy Quezon of McHugh Fuller Law Group.
The majority of the cases filed involving opioids against drug manufacturers and distributors are in federal court, but a handful remain 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.
AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp., Purdue Pharma LP, Purdue Pharma Inc., The Purdue Frederick Co. 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 Cos. Inc., Allergan PLC, Allergan Finance, Watson Laboratories Inc., Actavis, Actavis Pharma Inc., Mallinckrodt PLC, Mallinckrodt LLC, Specgx LLC, Insys Therapeutics Inc., Rite Aid Corp., The Kroger Co., Anda Inc., Anda Pharmaceuticals Inc., Generics Bidco I, Bellco Drug Corp., Qualitest Pharmaceuticals Inc., and H.D. Smith Wholsesale Drug Co. were all named as defendants in the suit.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number 5:19-cv-00084