West Virginia Record

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Hospitals sue opioid manufacturers, distributors to recoup costs of opioid epidemic


By Kyla Asbury | May 1, 2019


MOUNDSVILLE — Thirty-seven hospitals in West Virginia and Kentucky are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors they claim caused the crisis in the area.

The hospitals claim they were forced to take on costs due to the treatment of conditions of abuse, addiction, morbidity and mortality because of opioid abuse.

The complaint was filed April 29 in Marshall Circuit Court.

"Defendants systematically and repeatedly disregarded the health and safety of the public," the complaint states. "Charged by law to monitor and report dangerous behavior, they failed to do so in favor of maximizing corporate profits and increasing their market share."

The hospitals claim corporate greed and callous indifference to the known, serious potential for human suffering and death have caused this public health crisis.

The defendants unleashed a healthcare crisis that has had far-reaching financial and social consequences in this country, including opioid addiction and death, according to the suit.

Between 2001 and 2015, 7,209 people died from overdoses in West Virginia, according to the suit. The number of people who died from overdoses in West Virginia in 2016, 884, is more than four times the number of people who died in 2001, 212.

The plaintiffs claim among all overdose deaths that occurred in West Virginia, including non-residents who died in the state, most overdose deaths involved at least one opioid, and the percentage of overdose deaths involving an opioid increased from 70 percent in 2001 to 87 percent in 2015.

"Hospitals must admit opioid users who present in need of intensive care or who display symptoms of mental illness," the complaint states. "Defendants knew that federal and state law require hospitals to admit and treat opioid-addicted patients."

The plaintiffs claim if a pregnant opioid addict presents for treatment, the hospital must provide care for both the opioid-addicted mother and the opioid-addicted baby.

The defendants relied on the plaintiffs to provide a safety net to prevent overdose deaths and treat health consequences arising from opioid addictions and depended on hospitals themselves to mitigate the health consequences of their illegal activities

"Hospitals bear an enormous burden in providing care, as insurance covers only a portion of the cost," the complaint states.

Hospitals were burdened with the costs of healthcare and medical care for diagnostic, therapeutic and other treatments. They also suffered the costs associated with patient counseling with respect to pain management necessitated by overprescription to the general population, according to the suit.

The hospitals are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by Robert P. Fitzsimmons, Clayton J. Fitzsimmons and Mark Colantonio of Fitzsimmons Law Firm; Timothy R. Linkous and Brent P. Copenhaver of Linkous Law; Stephen B. Farmer of Farmer, Cline & Campbell; John W. Barrett, Sterling Stams, David McMullan Jr. and Richard Barrett of Barrett Law Group; Warren Burns, Korey A. Nelson, Lydia A. Wright and Rick Yelton of Burns Charest; Jonathan W. Cuneo, Monica Miller, Mark H. Dubster, David L. Black, Jennifer E. Kelly and Evelyn Li of Cuneo Gilbert & Laduca; Steve Martino of Taylor Martino; Frank L. Gallucci III of Plevin & Galluccii Company; Eric Kennedy and Daniel P. Goetz of Weisman, Kennedy & Berris Company; and Gerald M. Abdalla Jr. of Abdalla Law.

The hospitals in the suit are West Virginia University Hospitals Inc.; Appalachian Regional Healthcare Inc.; Bluefield Hospital Company; Charleston Area Medical Center Inc.; Davis Memorial Hospital; Broaddus Hospital Association; Webster County Memorial Hospital Inc.; Grafton City Hospital Inc.; Greenbrier VMC; Monongalia County General Hospital Company; Preston Memorial Hospital Corporation; Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital Company; Oak Hill Hospital Corporation, which does business as Plateau Medical Center; Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital Corporation; The Charles Town General Hospital; City Hospital Inc.; Potomac Valley Hospital of W. Va. Inc.; Reynolds Memorial Hospital Inc.; St. Joseph’s Hospital of Buckhannon Inc.; Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.; and United Hospital Center Inc. 

The defendants in the suit are Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company; Richard Sackler; Beverly Sackler; David Sackler; Ilene Sackler Lefcourt; Jonathan Sackler; Kathe Sackler; Mortimer D.A. Sackler; Theresa Sackler; John Stewart; Mark Timney; Craig Landau; Russell Gasdia; Mark Radcliffe; Mark Ross; Patty Carnes; Amneal Pharmaceuticals; Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc.; Abbott Laboratories; Abbott Laboratories Inc.; Assertio Therapeutics Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Mallinckrodt; Insys Therapeutics Inc.; Mallinckrodt; Specgx; Allergan; Watson Laboratories Inc.; Actavis; Actavis Pharma Inc.; Anda Inc.; H.D. Smith; Henry Schein Inc.; AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation; Miami-Luken Inc.; Cardinal Health Inc.; Rite Aid of Maryland Inc.; The Kroger Co.; Kroger Limited Partnership II; CVS Health Corporation; CVS Pharmacy Inc.; CVS Indiana; Wal-Mart Inc.; Wal-Mart Stores East; Noramco Inc.; and Carl N. Hooker

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Organizations in this Story

West Virginia UniversityFitzsimmons Law Firm, PLLCActavisCVS HealthPurdue Pharma L.PWalmart Stores Inc.Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLCCharleston Area Medical CenterMarshall Circuit CourtAbbott LaboratoriesBarrett Law Group PAEndo InternationalInsys Therapeutics, IncBurns Charest LLPLinkous Law PLLCFarmer Cline & Campbell PLLCTeva PharmaceuticalsEndo PharmaceuticalsAllerganCuneo Gilbert & Laduca LlpAnda IncJanssenCardinal HealthRite AidThe Kroger CompanyJohnson & JohnsonMallinckrodtCephalon, Inc.Amerisource BergenJanssen USAWatson Laboratories Inc.Noramco