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Darrell McGraw Jr.: Office has worked to counter drug abuse impact

Oct. 18, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

It has been my honor to serve as attorney general of the great state of West Virginia. I was born and raised in West Virginia, and I will always fight to protect the state I have called home my entire life. I am personally asking you to help me continue working for all of West Virginia.

In my last op-ed, I talked about threats to our security coming from drug abuse. I would like to expand upon that discussion.

Drug abuse in West Virginia is deadly. It destroys families and communities, and hinders economic development. In 2010, prescription drug abuse cost West Virginia $430 million. West Virginia has one of the highest death rates in the nation of prescription drug abuse. In 2008, West Virginia experienced 21.5 deaths attributed to prescription drug abuse per 100,000 residents. Charleston Area Medical Center reports 20 percent of patients admitted for trauma services have issues with narcotic abuse which contributes to their injuries.

Drug abuse places an enormous burden on our hospitals, courts, law enforcement and communities. Law enforcement reports 90 percent of their case load is made up of cases directly or indirectly related to the pain medication epidemic. Businesses cite the inability to hire workers who can pass a drug test as one of the major impediments to locating in West Virginia. Consequently, the Attorney General's Office has focused consumer law enforcement efforts against drug companies or drug suppliers.

We have filed suit against 14 major pharmaceutical companies who provide pain pills to pharmacies. We have alleged they have breached West Virginia law, which imposes a regulatory duty on companies that sell pain pills to report suspicious orders, including orders of unusual size or frequency or deviation from normal patterns.

Additionally, we were the first state party in the nation to win damages against Purdue Pharma for the fraudulent marketing of the addictive painkiller OxyContin. This endeavor first netted $10 million for West Virginia, then another $40 million when the federal government used West Virginia as a model in its own action against OxyContin. This money was used for drug rehabilitation, alternative sentencing options and ultimately led to the manufacturer's reformation of the drug to make it harder to abuse. These programs have assisted our law enforcement officers in West Virginia.

Another drug problem facing our state is synthetic drugs, commonly referred to as "bath salts," "K2," "spice" or "incense." These illegal drugs cause seizures, psychosis and even death. We were once again a national leader in initiating the first consumer protection law enforcement action in the country against Nutragenomics Manufacturing. We allege this company has deceptively marketed dangerous chemicals under phony labels with misleading names and directly misrepresented the drugs were safe and legal. Within two months of initiating the lawsuit, Nutragenomics was banned from conducting business in the State of West Virginia and must cease all advertising in our state. A week after the court stopped Nutragenomics from doing business in West Virginia, federal agents raided Nutragenomics in Georgia and identified it as the fifth largest synthetic drug chemical supplier in the United States.

My consumer protection initiatives against drug companies, big tobacco and other law breakers have allowed much needed funding to find its way to the West Virginia Legislature. The Legislature has used these funds to balance the budget, pay down the state debt, secure retirement systems, grow the rainy day fund and provide tax relief for West Virginia consumers. We have worked together to create a better business climate for our state.

Don't be fooled by out-of-staters who have ganged up to kill the enforcement of our West Virginia consumer protection laws. I will always fight to protect our state and our communities. I need your help to continue the fight.

Darrell McGraw Jr., a resident of Charleston, is the Democratic candidate for West Virginia attorney general.



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