(Reuters) – West Virginia’s Attorney General on Monday called on a judge to hold Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. and AbbVie Inc.’s Allergen responsible for causing a “tsunami” of opioid addiction in the state.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in his introductory statement in the Kanawha County Circuit Court that opioid addiction has affected state police forces, hospitals, foster homes and prisons, with effects that will linger for more than a generation.
“This epidemic has affected virtually all of West Virginia,” Morrissey said. “Our trial speaks for all West Virginia residents who have suffered because of the defendants̵7; illegal, emotionless and destructive behavior.”
West Virginia has been hit hard by the epidemic, with opioid mortality per capita nearly three times the national average by 2020, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
J&J and the three largest US drug distributors – AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. has reached $ 26 billion in nationwide agreements to resolve state and local government opioid claims. West Virginia was one of five states that did not sign the J&J portion of that settlement.
West Virginia has accused drugmakers of creating a “general nuisance” by tricking prescribers about the risks of opioid painkillers and violating the state’s consumer credit and protection laws.
The companies’ marketing efforts made opioids a common treatment for chronic pain in West Virginia, leading to an increase in substance abuse and overdose deaths, according to West Virginia’s complaints.
The companies have denied the allegations.
Mr Morrisey said he expects the trial before Judge Derek Swope to take up to two months.
Drugmaker Endo International PLC, a co-defendant in the case, reached a $ 26 million deal with West Virginia on March 30.
More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed against pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies due to the crisis. There has been a wave of recent agreements on corporate responsibility for the opioid epidemic.
Last month, Rhode Island and Florida concluded agreements to resolve opioid disputes before trials. Rhode Island reached a $ 107 million deal with Teva and Allergen and Florida settled with Teva, CVS Health Corp., Allergan and Endo for a total of $ 878 million.