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By Kimberly Chin
The office of Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said Monday it had filed a lawsuit against three opioid drug distributors for their alleged role in fueling the opioid epidemic in the state, adding to the slew of lawsuits the companies are already facing across the nation.
McKesson Corp. (MCK), Cardinal Health Inc. (CAH) and AmerisourceBergen Corp. (ABC) had allegedly failed to alert Oklahoma and federal authorities of suspiciously large orders of the addictive opioid drugs it had distributed to the state, the attorney general's office said.
By law, companies are required to report suspicious opioid-drug shipments to law-enforcement officials and halt orders of the drugs unless due diligence is conducted to prove their legitimacy.
In the Oklahoma suit, which was filed in Cleveland County District Court, the attorney general's office claims the companies had distributed more opioid drugs into communities than could have served a legitimate medical need, and it ignored red flags in addition to the suspicious orders.
"Clearly these companies turned a blind eye to the devastation they were causing around the country," said Mr. Hunter in a press conference Monday. "They skirted the rules to line their pockets."
The attorney general's office said it is seeking damages for negligence and unjust enrichment, claiming the companies' behaviors led to the "oversupply, diversion, addiction and overdose deaths" of people in Oklahoma communities.
"Our company plays an important but limited role in the pharmaceutical supply chain, and any suggestion that McKesson drove demand for opioids in this country reflects a fundamental misunderstanding and mischaracterization of our role as a distributor," a McKesson representative said in an email.
Players up and down the pharmaceutical supply chain, including drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies, have been sued by virtually every state and thousands of city and county governments.
A Cardinal Health spokeswoman referred to the global settlement framework that all three of the companies are trying to reach to settle sweeping litigation brought by state and local governments. "Cardinal Health supports the global settlement framework as a path to opioid litigation resolution that would bring real and immediate relief to communities across our nation affected by the opioid epidemic," the spokeswoman said.
A representative at AmerisourceBergen couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Write to Kimberly Chin at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 13, 2020 19:04 ET (00:04 GMT)
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