McKesson Settles West Virginia Opioid Distribution Lawsuit, But the Agreement is Very Unpopular with Some

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McKesson Corporation agreed to pay $37 million to settle a lawsuit by the state of West Virginia alleging that McKesson willfully funneled 1.2 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone into West Virginia between 2007 and 2012. West Virginia announced that the settlement funds will be used to support state initiatives, including rehabilitation, job training and mental health programs. McKesson did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

In the suit, West Virginia alleged that McKesson did not properly monitor the number of pills they shipped into the state. McKesson is facing hundreds of other cases by state and local governments alleging it failed to identify suspicious orders of painkillers. West Virginia recently settled similar cases against Cardinal Health Inc. for $20 million, and AmerisourceBergen Corp. for $16 million.

Following the settlement, McKesson released a statement saying that it “expressly denies wrongdoing,” and that it is “committed to working with others to end this national crisis.” McKesson also noted that it has recently made significant enhancements to its Controlled Substance Monitoring Program which uses “sophisticated algorithms designed to monitor for suspicious orders, block the shipment of controlled substances to pharmacies when certain thresholds are reached and ultimately report those orders to the [Drug Enforcement Agency].”

However, not everyone is pleased with the settlement agreement. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) released a statement blasting the “horrific and inadequate settlement” with McKesson “for flooding West Virginia with opioids and killing thousands of West Virginians.” Manchin asserted that the state and people of West Virginia have incurred billions of dollars in damages and that the governor and state attorney general sold out West Virginia with the “sweetheart” deal. Manchin also compared the settlement to a similar case in the State of Oklahoma, in which the state received $270 million from Purdue Pharma, almost 10 times the amount of the West Virginia settlement, while Oklahoma’s opioid-related deaths are 80% lower than West Virginia. Manchin also noted that McKesson has shipped over 100 million opioid pills into West Virginia and that the opioid epidemic causes $8.8 billion in damage annually. Manchin questioned how the $37 million settlement could be considered fair, particularly in view of McKesson’s $208.4 billion revenue in 2018. He stated that he stands with West Virginians “in their anger at this disgraceful settlement.”

This case is just one of many by state and local governments alleging that drug manufacturers deceptively marketed opioids and that drug distributor failed to detect opioid diversion.

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