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In The News: Richwood plans to sue drug distributors

Two more West Virginia towns are joining the growing number of cities and counties that are suing pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers the costs of dealing with opioid abuse.

The small Nicholas County town of Richwood plans to sue three large pharmaceutical distributors, similar to the $47 million case settled by West Virginia late last year.

The lawsuit against AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health, Inc. and McKeeson Corp. is expected to be filed next week in Nicholas County Circuit Court.

The suit, according to attorney Charles “Rusty” Webb, will allege the pharmaceutical distributors caused and contributed to the opioid epidemic and will continue to cause Richwood, a town of about 1,700, to use a large sum of public to deal with the consequences of the opioid epidemic that was “fueled by [their] illegal, reckless and malicious actions” when they flooded West Virginia with prescription medication.

The town’s Mayor Bob Henry Baber said in a press release, “The cost to the town has been substantial both financially and spiritually.”

The suit will seek damages for reimbursement for Richwood, including increased expenses of drug abuse treatment programs, prevention and training costs for law enforcement, hospitals and schools, costs of the drug Naloxone as well as education, training and use, medical care and hospitalizations, increased costs of law enforcement, increased costs of prosecutions and increased costs of incarcerations, Webb said.

CBS News reported in January 2016, that AmerisourceBergen, the nation’s third largest drug distributor, over a five-year period filled orders for 118 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills — enough to supply every West Virginian with 13 pain pills a year.

Overall, drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia over a six-year period. During that time, 1,728 people statewide fatally overdosed on them.

Webb’s office said the case could be the basis for a class-action lawsuit.

Media outlets report the Mingo County community of Kermit filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Mingo County Circuit Court naming five prescription drug wholesalers.

It also names Cameron Justice, the former owner of a now-closed pain clinic who was sentenced in 2010 to 30 months in prison for health-care fraud and allowing unauthorized staff members to issue illegal prescriptions.

“The good people of Kermit deserve justice for the ravages done to them by several multinational corporations for money,” said former state Sen. Truman Chafin, one of the attorneys representing the town of 392 people in the lawsuit.


By: Daniel Tyson

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