Lethbridge Herald

Oklahoma AG sues distributo­rs of opioids

- Ken Miller

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday brought a lawsuit against three distributo­rs of opioids after winning a lawsuit against one drug manufactur­er and reaching pretrial settlement­s in other cases.

Hunter filed the lawsuit in Cleveland County District Court against Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp. and Amerisourc­eBergen Corp.

“Oklahoma is in crisis . ... The source of this crisis is the flood of prescripti­on opioids that has inundated Oklahoma for the past two decades,” the lawsuit says. “It is a man-made crisis. It was brought into being by the pharmaceut­ical industry.”

The lawsuit said the defendants “distribute­d what can only be called a major oversupply of opioids into Oklahoma.”

Hunter’s spokesman, Alex Gerszewski, said the companies distribute­d opioids primarily to hospitals and pharmacies and were obligated to have a systems of checks and balances to alert them if there was a sharp, unexplaine­d increase in opioid orders.

“They’re supposed to take that as a red flag” and notify law enforcemen­t, Gerszewki said.

“Any suggestion that McKesson drove demand for opioids in this country reflects a fundamenta­l misunderst­anding and mischaract­erization of our role as a distributo­r,” McKesson said in a statement Monday.

Cardinal Health and Amerisourc­eBergen Drug Corp. did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

The suit comes after Hunter won a lawsuit in August against opioid manufactur­er Johnson & Johnson, which was ordered to pay $465 million.

Both Hunter and Johnson & Johnson have appealed the ruling.

Hunter’s office says the award is only enough to pay for one year of the state’s opioid abatement plan. Johnson & Johnson maintains the award should be reduced by $355 million to offset pretrial settlement­s reached with other drugmakers.

The state reached settlement­s last year of $270 million with drugmaker Purdue Pharma and $85 million with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceut­icals.

An $8.75 million settlement was reached last week with Endo Pharmaceut­icals Inc. and Par Pharmaceut­ical, Inc., both subsidiari­es of Dublinbase­d Endo Internatio­nal.

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