This week’s $2.5 million settlement with a regional pharmaceutical distributor is a hopeful sign for West Virginia’s public health and public safety agencies as they continue to combat drug abuse fueled, they allege, by reckless and negligent industry conduct.
Ohio-based Miami-Luken Inc. has agreed to pay $2 million initially and $500,000 over the next two years as part of a settlement announced by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office. The agreement is in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the departments of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS).
The two Cabinet departments allege a dozen pharmaceutical companies have recklessly, maliciously and illegally flooded West Virginia with highly addictive prescription medications without regard of the consequences.
The widespread abuse of these prescription drugs have cost West Virginia hundreds of millions of dollars annually by devastating communities and families, sapping the state’s economic productivity and inflicting a burden upon West Virginia’s hospitals, social service agencies, jails, prisons and other vital institutions.
“The scourge of drug abuse has not only greatly harmed West Virginia but also threatens its future generations,” DMAPS Cabinet Secretary Joe Thornton said. “This agreement is a positive development in West Virginia’s long fight for justice. It also reflects the diligence and hard work of the state’s legal team, which includes DMAPS General Counsel Thom Kirk and agency legal staff.”
Miami-Luken is the first of the dozen defendants to reach a settlement agreement in the case, which is scheduled for an October 2016 trial in Boone County Circuit Court.
“This settlement recognizes the contributions of this pharmaceutical distributor to the significant substance abuse issues West Virginia is facing,” said Karen L. Bowling, Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
“This financial opportunity will allow DHHR to add additional substance abuse services for our residents.”
Miami-Luken admits no liability as part of the settlement, which was reached by the parties to avoid further, protracted litigation. The agreement requires the privately held company to alert the West Virginia State Police and the Attorney General’s Office of suspicious drug orders within 72 hours of their discovery.
The settlement notes that Miami-Luken is already implementing a program to detect and prevent prescription drug diversion.
The Attorney General’s Office also represents the two departments in a Boone County lawsuit filed Jan. 21 against McKesson Corp., the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America. While separate from the case involving Miami-Luken, it similarly alleges violations of state consumer protection and controlled substances laws, deceptive acts and practices, and reckless and negligent conduct.