West Virginia accuses pharmaceutical companies of being liable for opioid addiction

The claim is that drug makers misrepresent the risks and benefits involved in taking opioids.

West Virginia’s attorney general requested that a judge hold Allergan, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) responsible for causing a “tsunami” of opioid addiction. As part of the opening statement in court, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey stated the opioid addiction has impacted several departments of the state such as the hospitals, jails, police force and foster care systems. "This epidemic has impacted virtually all of West Virginia," Morrisey stated. "Our lawsuit speaks for all West Virginians who have suffered due to the defendants' unlawful, callous and destructive conduct." The state accused drug makers of creating a "public nuisance" by misleading doctors and health works about the risks involved with opioid analgesics. The state added that the drug makers marketing strategy resulted in opioids becoming common treatment for chronic pain.

Morrisey added, the defendants “participated in a highly sophisticated scheme to mislead healthcare providers and consumers about the addictive nature of their products”. The pharmaceutical companies have denied all claims in their opening statements. Harvey Bartle, Teva’s attorney stated that the company’s marketing strategy in no way lead to “medically unnecessary” prescriptions in the state. West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose and deaths in the nation. The United States three largest drug contributors, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp along with J&J have reached $26 million nationwide settlements to resolve state and local government claims. Over 3,300 lawsuits have been files against pharmaceutical companies, distributors, and pharmacies. There has been a wave of settlements over the pharmaceutical companies’ responsibility for the epidemic.