The defense seems to be counting on a classic pass-the-buck roundelay, with distributors pointing at doctors pointing at government regulators pointing at the victims, and round and round until everybody’s guilty so nobody is.
The city of Huntington and Cabell County argued that the defendants — AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. — became culpable when 127.9 million opiate doses were sent to the county from 2006-14. When the number of shipped doses decreased around 2012, users were made to turn to illicit opiate drugs, like heroin, they said.
“This day has been a long time coming. This day is for all of those suffering from substance use disorder who have lost their lives or lost a loved one from this horrible disease,” Rader said.
Former state Health Officer Dr. Rahul Gupta said during testimony Wednesday at the landmark opioid epidemic trial taking place in U.S. District Court in Charleston that he commissioned a report on overdose deaths in West Virginia to “learn from our dead so we could help the living.”
In Cabell County alone, there have been about 1,100 opioid-related deaths and 7,000 overdoses in the past decade, county attorney Paul Farrell Jr. said Monday.
Huntington and Cabell are seeking money to address the toll the opioid crisis has taken on their communities — estimated by one of their expert witnesses at $2.6 billion.
At the questioning of Cabell County attorney Paul T. Farrell Jr., Courtwright said there have been four strong opioid epidemics in the United States: the opium and morphine epidemic in the 19th century; a heroin epidemic in the late 1940s and again in the late 1960s; and one created with significant increase in prescription opioids in the late 1990s.
Charles Earp will not be taking the witness stand during Huntington and Cabell County’s historic trial against the three largest drug distributors. However, he does join the hundreds of parents who were witnesses to their children going through addiction, and he eventually got the dreaded call that his son had fatally overdosed.
“It is fitting that the trial will proceed in West Virginia, which has been ground zero of the opioid epidemic,” the plaintiff’s lawyers, Paul Farrell and Anne McGinness Kearse, said in a statement.
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.