By CHAD ABSHIRE
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw, citing the burden of both financial and human costs on the state and its citizens in the battle against prescription drug abuse, recently filed a lawsuit in the Boone County Circuit Court, calling for injunctions against 14 out-of-state drug distributors for “their roles in creating and profiting from the epidemic.”
“Prescription drug abuse costs West Virginians over $430 million a year, devastates families, and hangs enormous burdens on our hospitals, courts, law enforcement, and communities,” McGraw said. “With (the) filing, we are seeking to make major drug distributors that have substantially benefited from prescription drug abuse accept responsibility and pay for their illicit actions.”
McGraw’s suit seeks to enjoin 14 “pill mill” companies from distributing any controlled substance for non-medical purposes, recover damages, instate medical monitoring for drug abuse victims, and force the companies to inform state authorities of all suspicious orders for controlled substances from West Virginia.The attorney general’s complaint stated that the drug distributors “supplied controlled substances, including oxycodone, to drugstores which dispensed the drugs based on prescriptions from physicians who prescribed them for non-legitimate medical purposes.”
McGraw said the companies were integral parts of the “pill mill” process.
“Pill mills” consist of medical providers, pharmacies and distributors that divert prescription drugs for illegitimate medical purposes.
“These pill mill schemers are like dealers,” McGraw said. “They profit from the suffering of their victims.”
The defendants named in McGraw’s suit are out-of-state drug distribution companies registered with the State Board of Pharmacy to do business in West Virginia:
• Cardinal Health, Ohio;
• Miami-Luken, Inc., Ohio;
• Keysource Medical Inc., Ohio;
• Masters Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Ohio;
• Quest Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Kentucky;
• Richie Pharmacal Co., Inc., Kentucky;
• Top Rx, Inc., Tennessee;
• Amerisourcebergen Drug Corp., Delaware;
• H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Company, Delaware;
• The Harvard Drug Group, LLC, Michigan;
• Auburn Pharmaceutical Company, Michigan;
• J.M. Smith Corp., d/b/a Smith Drug Co., South Carolina;
• Associated Pharmacies, Inc., Alabama;
• Anda Inc., Florida.
Cardinal Health, one of the companies named in McGraw’s complaint, has been cited before by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency for “not taking adequate safeguards to prevent prescription drugs which it distributed from being unlawfully diverted, despite warnings from internal investigators,” the release stated.
The DEA further alleged that Cardinal’s “staggeringly high” volumes of pills sent to various dispensers posed “an imminent danger to public health or safety” and thus the DEA issued an Immediate Suspension Order to Cardinal in February.
Based on the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control, West Virginia is the nation’s most-medicated state, filling approximately seven more prescriptions per person annually than the nation’s average.
In 2006, two small pharmacies in Kermit filled prescriptions of hydrocodone totaling 3.19 million dosage units, a total that ranked 22nd for the entire nation. An average pharmacy in the United States dispenses only 97,000 doses in a year.
McGraw, taking note of cooperation needed in the concerted efforts to combat substance abuse, spoke on the importance of his office’s alliances with the West Virginia State Police, the Metro Drug Unit, county sheriffs, and local law enforcement agencies.
“It will take the cooperation of a dedicated team fighting drug abuse on many fronts to make West Virginia a safer, healthier place,” McGraw said. “With (this) court action, we aim to cut off the distribution routes of prescription drug suppliers.”