White pills spilling out of a prescription bottle.

West Virginia seeks justice for opioid crisis as trial begins

Three drug firms due to go on trial over alleged role in opioid crisis in West Virginia, described as ‘ground zero’ of the epidemic.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

The trial of three major US drug distributors over their alleged role in the opioid crisis in West Virginia is due to begin on Monday. The firms are accused of illegally pumping hundreds of millions of prescription opioid pills into the state, and with it, driving the highest overdose rate in the US.

The city of Huntington and surrounding Cabell county are suing McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, three of the largest corporations in the US. The trial is part of a series of federal cases over the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to sell narcotic painkillers, which culminated in the worst drug epidemic in US history.

  • Cabell county has a population of 90,000 but was flooded with nearly 100m pills over the course of a decade. Some quick maths puts that at more than 1,100 pills per resident.
  • The opioid epidemic has cost 500,000 lives since 1999 across the US, and devastated the lives of millions of others.

The lawsuit accuses the firms of working with “pill mill” doctors and pharmacists who were willing to give opioids to anyone who paid – a breach of laws that require distributors to stop and report any suspicious sales.