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Attorney: Hospitals are committed to lead state out of crisis in large opioid case

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — An attorney representing dozens of hospitals in West Virginia and Kentucky in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and pharmacies says there are reasons behind the case being just regional.

Steve Farmer of Farmer, Cline & Campbell appeared on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ to discuss those reasons including West Virginia being the center of where the national epidemic started.

“It is the commitment of these hospitals,” Farmer said on why the hospitals took the lead on the case. “The reason that we filed in West Virginia instead of getting sucked up into a nationwide class action is these hospitals want to be responsible to West Virginians to provide the solution.”

“These companies had West Virginia has the lead into this crisis. Our hospitals are committed to seeing if we can lead West Virginia out.”

Farmer said millions of dollars have been lost by the hospitals and they are among the list of victims to this “conspiracy.”

He said the defendant manufacturers that include Purdue, Jannsen, Abbott and Endo, distributors that include Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, and pharmacies that include CVS, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, Walmart, and Kroger have intentionally destroyed lives in West Virginia.

“Through a consistent and overwhelming misinformation campaign, which was designed to turn opioid pain treatment from a treatment that was from the first World War until this began, recognized as a treatment that was only helpful and appropriate for acute episodic pain,” Farmer said.

Farmer said the evidence, in this case, comes from numerous years of treatment in the past.

“For the entire 20th century it was used appropriately until this misinformation campaign,” he said. “There was nothing for evidence that the therapeutic value of these drugs changed in any way other than what these defendants invented.”

27 hospitals in West Virginia and 10 in Kentucky are in the lawsuit as Farmer added that the mainline doctors at these places are the victims too, that they were convinced by the defendants to make opioids a “blockbuster” drug.

“In order to do that they lied about the addiction potential,” he said of the defendants. “They lied to doctors, medical professionals, they tried to convince everybody. Most mainline doctors are victims of the horrible misinformation campaign which encouraged them to prescribe opioid pain therapy to patients that should have never received it.”

According to David Beard of the Dominion Post, the complaint claims that from 2001-2015, 7,209 people in West Virginia died of overdoses. He also said the annual number quadrupled from 2001 (212) to 2016 (884), and the percentage of deaths involving at least one opioid rose from 70% in 2001 to 87% in 2015.

Per the complaint, West Virginia held the nation’s highest cost per capita at $4,378.

From 2005-2016, distributors shipped hundreds of millions of opioids to West Virginia including Cardinal Health (366 million), McKesson (299 million) and AmerisourceBergen (248 million), per the complaint.

Read the complaint HERE

Oklahoma has recently settled a lawsuit with only Purdue Pharma totaling $275 million.

Farmer said the suit, which was filed in Marshall County, expects more dealing with more defendants and all potential payback will go to the hospitals with recovery efforts for victims.

“If this does not stop, these hospitals will not be able to properly continue to deliver their mission to their communities,” Farmer said.

“It must stop, it must get fixed.”

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