West Virginia lawsuit against opioid makers slated for April 2022 trial
A lawsuit filed by the state of West Virginia accusing several drugmakers of misrepresenting the risks of their pain relievers will go to trial next April, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Thursday.
The Mass Litigation Panel, a group of state judges in Kanawha County, upheld a state motion to expedite the trial, Morrisey said in a press release. The lawsuits had already been filed separately in Boone County in August 2019.
Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc., Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Endo Health Solutions Inc. are charged with violating state credit and consumer protection law and causing public nuisance .
Morrisey says companies have engaged in strategic campaigns to deceive prescribers. The lawsuits allege that the manufacturers’ conduct has led to opioids becoming a mainstream treatment for chronic pain and drug addiction fueled in West Virginia.
According to Morrisey, Teva is accused of telling doctors that patients could take increasingly potent opioids without revealing the growing risk of addiction, and of disguising its marketing efforts through third-party lawyers and professional associations.
Johnson & Johnson, through Janssen, also reportedly downplayed the dangers of prescription pain relievers by distributing patient education guides that sought to dispel the “myth” that opioids are addictive, Morrisey said.
Endo is accused of renaming a 1960s drug linked to widespread abuse with a new name and color and of misrepresenting a later version of the drug as tamper-proof.
Last year, Morrisey sued Walmart and drugstore chain CVS, claiming they failed to monitor and report suspicious orders of prescription pain relievers to their retail pharmacies.
In separate and similar lawsuits, the state reached a $ 37 million settlement with distributor McKesson Corp. in 2019, and $ 20 million with Cardinal Health Inc. and $ 16 million with AmerisourceBergen Drug Co. in 2017.
West Virginia leads the country in drug overdose death rate.
Last week, state and local government lawyers announced a potential $ 26 billion nationwide opioid toll settlement with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson as well as drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated overdose deaths to hit a record 93,000 nationwide last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench trial ended last week in federal court in Charleston in a lawsuit accusing AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson of fueling the opioid crisis in Cabell County and the town of Huntington. A verdict could fall later this month.
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