PRINCETON, W.Va. — Mercer County may be the next to sue drug wholesalers and other drug companies that have poured prescription pills into West Virginia and, in the process, fueled an ongoing opioid epidemic.
“With the flooding of pills that’s happened over the last 17, 18 years, we have to have greater accountability,” said Greg Puckett, a Mercer County commissioner.
On Tuesday, he and his fellow commissioners heard a presentation from lawyers looking to represent Mercer County and other counties in southern West Virginia in potential litigation.
“We are very interested in trying to figure out how we’re going to be accountable, how we’re going, for lack of a better term, shovel up the problem that we’ve had and create a new society in which we move forward in a different way,” Puckett said.
Drug addiction comes with big costs, Puckett told MetroNews, in terms of public health, county resources and economic potential.
For example, most court cases in his county and others are tied, either directly or indirectly, to prescription drug abuse.
“The level of addiction that we see here in southern West Virginia is beyond anything that is truly going on within the entire country,” Puckett said.
“We’re trying to find every way possible to solve the problem that we have and also create the solutions to where we don’t have these problems long-term.”
Members of the Mercer County Commission were requesting a review of the possible litigation from Mercer County’s prosecuting attorney within the next ten days.
A formal filing decision could come in Mercer County before February.
In December, the McDowell County Commission filed suit against three prescription drug wholesalers — McKesson Corporation, Amerisource Bergen and Cardinal Health — alleging the shipments of opioids from the companies contributed to the opioid epidemic, causing “addiction and destruction.”
Next week, members of the Mingo County Commission are scheduled to hear a presentation similar to the one offered Tuesday in Mercer County.
Members of the Kanawha County Commission have discussed the possibility of litigation.
“There’s a lot of communities in southern West Virginia that are looking at this option,” Puckett told MetroNews. “Mercer County is only one of probably around 50 Appalachian communities within this region that are suffering in this great of detail.”
On Monday, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office announced a $36 million settlement with Amerisource Bergen and Cardinal Health to resolve allegations tied to massive past prescription pill shipments.
In agreeing to those settlements, both companies have denied any wrongdoing.
The two are among the largest of the 12 pharmaceutical companies named in lawsuits challenging opioid supplies that were first filed in Boone County in 2012.