Four pharmaceutical drug distributors that resisted efforts by the state to turn over records of shipments made to West Virginia pharmacies have been ordered to disclose such shipments over the past five years.
Boone County Circuit Judge William Thompson acted Thursday in a lawsuit filed last year by former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw accusing them of sending excessive amounts of prescription painkillers to southern West Virginia pharmacies.
The Charleston Gazette reports Cardinal Health, Anda Inc., AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and J.M Smith Corp. must disclose every pharmacy to where they’ve delivered prescription drugs.
“The (companies) had good reason to know, did know, or should have known, they were sending controlled substances to the state of West Virginia that were not being used for legitimate purposes,” said Jim Cagle, a Charleston lawyer working for the Attorney General’s Office.
“When we get that information, it will absolutely show how involved they were,” he said. “These are proper questions that need to be answered.”
The companies have 30 days to turn over the shipping records of 20 specific prescription medications. Cagle had sought the disclosure of all controlled substances.
The drug wholesale companies are “literally making billions of dollars delivering prescription drugs to pharmacies that are sending them suspicious orders that they’re filling,” Cagle said. “There is no question there is an epidemic with prescription drug abuse in West Virginia.”
West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of fatal drug overdoses. A report released this month by the Trust for America’s Health says that rate is now six times higher than it was about a decade ago.
McGraw filed two lawsuits last year, one against Cardinal Health and another against 13 other out-of-state distributors. Nine voluntarily turned over their shipping records.
Charleston attorney Al Emch, representing AmerisourceBergen, called Cagle’s records request “overly broad and burdensome.” He said the lawsuit mentions only one painkiller, hydrocodone.
“The discovery asks for everything, and the (lawsuit) complaint tells us nothing,” he said. “We need to straighten out what this case is about ... before we proceed.”
The two sides are expected to start mediation in March.
In August, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recused himself from the lawsuit involving Cardinal Health. The company contributed to a fund established to pay for his inauguration party. His wife, Denise Henry, is a Cardinal Health lobbyist.