MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Thirty-seven hospitals in two states have filed a lawsuit in Marshall County against numerous opioid manufacturers, distributors, and several individuals.
Stephen Farmer of law firm Farmer, Cline, and Campbell announced the suit, calling it the first of its kind in the United States, Tuesday afternoon.
The complaint filed in court Tuesday claims evidence of a criminal conspiracy that has devastated West Virginia and “tens of thousands of its families.”
West Virginia University Hospitals, United Hospital Center, and Charleston Area Medical Center Health System are among three of the largest hospitals to attach their name to the suit — featuring 27 West Virginia hospitals and 10 Kentucky hospitals in total.
The complaint names 22 defendants across the spectrum of pharmaceutical marketing, distribution, retail, and one known individual. The complaint also names 100 “John Doe” defendants — whose true names the plaintiffs have yet to identify.
In part, the 341-page complaint claims marketing defendants — 10 of whom are listed — used “key opinion leaders” by “funding, assisting, encouraging, and directing doctors” and “creating, funding, assisting, directing, and/or encouraging seemingly neutral and credible professional societies and patient advocacy groups” to “profoundly influence, and at times control, the sources that doctors and patients relied on for ostensibly “neutral guidance.”
The complaint further claims that the marketing defendants pushed to increase opioid sales, while the supply side was sustained by manufacturers and distributors.
On page 20, the complaint claims the defendants “systematically and repatedly disregarded the health and safety of the public.”
“By providing misleading information to doctors about addiction being rare and opioids being safe even in high doses, then pressuring those doctors into prescribing their products by arguing, among other things, that no one should be in pain, especially chronic pain, the Marketing Defendants created a population of addicted patients who sought opioids at never-before-seen rates.”