Attorney General Andy Beshear sues opioid distributor McKesson Corp. for ‘flooding Kentucky’

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By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed suit against a national opioid distributor alleging they are violating state law and “flooding Kentucky with massive amounts of opioids.”

The suit, filed at Franklin Circuit Court on Monday, accuses San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation of “unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices, for excessively distributing opioids, particularly in Eastern Kentucky, and for failing to report the large volume of these drugs to state and federal authorities,” according to Beshear.

Between 2010 and 2016, Beshear says McKesson distributed 18.4 million opioids in Floyd County, or 477 pills for every man, woman and child there.

He alleges the company distributed 14.7 million pills in Perry County, or 526 for every resident. In Clay County it was 8.3 million, 422 doses per person; Owsley County had 1.7 million doses distributed, 386 per capita; and in Bell County, 9.8 million doses, or 351 per resident.

Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing a national drug distributor for “flooding Kentucky with massive amounts of opiods.” (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

Figures released by Beshear’s office indicate from 2012-2015 that 261 Kentuckians died from opioid overdoses in those five counties. Opioid deaths stand at more than 4,400 statewide.

“No responsible company would have seen these numbers, and think ‘all is well,’”Beshear told reporters at the Capitol. “Our lawsuit alleges they knew exactly what they were doing. They knew they were flooding these communities with dangerous and addictive drugs, and we pay the price.”

Beshear warns McKesson is fueling a second drug epidemic, which will have massive costs that might make this budget session look easy.

“That second epidemic is an HIV and Hepatitis C outbreak,” Beshear said. “Last year the CDC issued a list of 220 counties across this nation, that are most at-risk for an HIV outbreak. 54 Kentucky counties were on that list. Almost 20 percent of the CDC’s list of places there they believe they will see an HIV outbreak, are right here in Kentucky.”

Beshear says McKesson has made two multi-million-dollar settlements with the federal government for similar claims.

“In 2008, they settled for $13.5 million for failure to comply with federal reporting laws. Despite this settlement, they continue to flood the nation with opioids, without ever alerting the DEA to the high volume of orders for these pills.”

McKesson entered a $150 million settlement with the federal government in January, 2017 for their ongoing irresponsible and egregious behavior, he said.

Beshear’s action joins Ohio, West Virginia and other communities, in filing suit against McKesson.

“It is my responsibility as Attorney General to drag them into a Kentucky court, and make them answer to our families. Make them look our families that have lost a loved one in the eye and explain to them why profits were more important than that lost loved one.”

McKesson took exception to the suit and offered this statement.

“McKesson delivers life-saving medicines to millions of Americans each day and is committed to maintaining—and continuously enhancing—strong programs designed to detect and prevent opioid diversion within the pharmaceutical supply chain.

“This complicated, multi-faceted public health crisis cannot be solved by any one participant. It needs to be addressed through a comprehensive approach that includes the doctors, patients, pharmacists, insurance companies, government payers (such as Medicaid and Medicare), distributors, manufacturers, law enforcement and regulators.”

This is the second lawsuit Beshear has filed against opioid distributors. He sued Endo Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions in November.

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