Federal Judge Throws Big Pharma A Bone, Rules They Did Not Create West Virginia's Opioid Epidemic

By Emanuel Eisen | Wednesday, 06 July 2022 05:15
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A federal judge ruled Monday that three major drug companies did not prompt public nuisance when they dispersed millions of opioids to Huntington, West Virginia, and its surrounding counties, The Washington Post reported.

Judge David A. Faber of the U.S. District Court in West Virginia supported AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, who claimed the prescriptions they shipped were prescribed by licensed doctors and filled by pharmacies.

"The opioid crisis has taken a considerable toll on the citizens of Cabell County and the City of Huntington," Faber's dismissal read. "While there is a natural tendency to assign blame in such cases, they must be decided not based on sympathy, but on the facts and the law."

"The extension of the law of nuisance to cover the marketing and sale of opioids is inconsistent with the history and traditional notions of nuisance," he added.

Faber also claimed the plaintiffs did not prove the companies' conduct was unreasonable or that their conduct resulted in the harm mourned by the communities.

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The decision comes nearly a year after lawyers for the defendants and the plaintiffs rested their case in a bench trial held before the judge last summer. Following the trial, the three distributors forged a $21 billion national deal with a vast majority of states, counties and cities to resolve most of the lawsuits against them. Communities in West Virginia were not part of that deal. Lawyers involved in the case said they were surprised by the amount of time it took Faber to hand down his decision.

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Following the decree, the defendants backed the decision. One of the drug companies, McKesson, said it continues "to be deeply concerned about the impact that the opioid crisis is having on families and communities across our nation."

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"We're pleased with the court's decision which struck down the notion that the distribution of FDA-approved medications to licensed and registered health care providers in Cabell County and the City of Huntington was a public nuisance," AmerisourceBergen stated.

Meanwhile, the defendants said they were "deeply concerned" with the county and victims of the broader opioid crisis, presenting the possibility of forwarding an appeal to the decision.

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Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they are considering an appeal. “We are deeply disappointed personally and for the citizens of Cabell County and the City of Huntington," the plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a statement. “We felt the evidence that emerged from witness statements, company documents, and extensive datasets showed these defendants were responsible for creating and overseeing the infrastructure that flooded West Virginia with opioids.”

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