W.Va. AG sues drug wholesaler

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s attorney general has accused one of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical drug wholesalers of flooding the state with tens of millions of prescription pills in violation of state law.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Friday announced a lawsuit against San Francisco-based McKesson Corp. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges violations of state consumer protection laws and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

Morrisey said the company failed to detect, report and stop the flood of suspicious prescription drug orders into the state, contributing to widespread drug abuse.

“This failure is one cause of many for the state’s prescription drug overdose rate, decreased worker productivity and the wasteful expenditure of precious state resources,” Morrisey said.

McKesson didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Morrisey said in a statement that an investigation by his office found that McKesson delivered about 99.5 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia between 2007 and 2012.

The company’s shipment of 10.2 million doses to Logan County alone in southern West Virginia would have provided more than 276 doses to every resident in the county, he said. In Mingo County, McKesson shipped 3.4 million doses in 2007.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of fatal drug overdoses. The state’s rate was 28.9 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2010, most of those involving prescription drugs. In 1999, the state’s fatal overdose rate was 4.1 per 100,000 people.

Former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed a lawsuit in Boone County Circuit Court in 2012 accusing multiple distributors of sending excessive amounts of prescription painkillers to southern West Virginia pharmacies. The lawsuit remains active, and Morrisey said he’d like to merge it with the complaint against McKesson.

“The flooding of prescription pills into our state is a very serious problem that involves all parts of the pharmaceutical supply channel,” Morrisey said. “No one group or industry sector is solely responsible for this problem; a solution must involve many actors, including doctors, pharmacies, wholesalers, manufacturers and government bodies.”

In 2012, McKesson agreed to pay $151 million to West Virginia, 28 other states and the District of Columbia to settle a lawsuit alleging the company inflated prices of hundreds of prescription drugs, causing state Medicaid programs to overpay millions of dollars in reimbursements. The agreement settled allegations the company deliberately inflated drug prices by as much as 25 percent from 2001 to 2009.