Counsel: New data on drug shipments just the beginning

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Huntington attorney working to represent thousands of municipal bodies says recent information regarding the billions of pain bills drug companies shipped around the country is just the beginning.

Paul Farrell Jr. is co-lead counsel in representing 2,000 cities, towns and counties against multiple drug companies, said the information will reveal further context to the nationwide opioid epidemic.

“You’ll be able to see it from the data itself once each of the communities can start doing a deep dive into the data,” he said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

A federal judge on Monday allowed some information related to opioids to be released; the information regards six years of data collected by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regarding the number of prescriptions delivered and the companies involved in shipping the medications.

The Washington Post and HD Media — the parent company of the Charleston Gazette-Mail and the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington — sought to have the information released.

The country’s largest drug companies provided people with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills according to DEA records. Six companies — McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart — accounted for 75% of the pills.

West Virginia had the highest concentration of pills received per year; the state also had the highest opioid death rate during this period.

Farrell said this information is “startling” and doesn’t even paint the whole picture.

“What’s going to be transformative is when each community across the country can take the data from their backyard and understand how the flood impacted them,” he said.

Through the information, Farrell said attorneys will be able to say manufacturers and corporations failed to abide by their obligations, allowing drugs into the hands of many.

“The evidence is overwhelming. There was a clear understanding that these pills were grabbing a hold of Americans,” he added.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster is overseeing the lawsuits. Polster serves in the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland.

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