I am no tribalist, but I can’t help but wonder why West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, an outsider, came here from another state and almost immediately got elected to public office.
Moreover, why did he settle with drug companies pushing opioids by the millions on West Virginians?
Ken Hall, president of Teamsters Local 175 as well as general secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters International, wrote an opinion column for the West Virginia Record asking questions about Morrisey and the state’s opioid crisis.
“Thanks to a yearlong fight by the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s parent company (HD Media) and The Washington Post,” Hall wrote, “a database of information regarding the opioid industry from 2006 through 2012 has been released to the public. That data shows an even more distressing picture about where the deadly pills went and who supplied them.”
During those seven years, more than 76 billion opioid pills were dumped on the United States. During those years, West Virginia received 67 pills per person annually. The result? Our state had the highest per capita death rate from opioids in the country.
Hall noted there are currently more than 1,500 lawsuits against two dozen pharmaceutical companies that have been consolidated in a court in Ohio. Oklahoma, which received 54 pills per person per year, recently settled a lawsuit with Purdue Pharma for $270 million. The state also settled with Teva Pharmaceuticals for $85 million.
Contrast the Oklahoma settlements with those agreed to by Morrisey, Hall noted.
“According to the newly uncovered data, McKesson Corp. was the single largest distributor of opioids nationwide, distributing more than 14 billion pills during the seven year period covered in the data. Yet Morrisey accepted a paltry $37 million settlement with the company. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., referred to the settlement as a ‘sweetheart deal’ that amounts to ‘pennies on the dollar to what McKesson cost our state,’” Hall wrote.
Morrisey also settled with Cardinal Health, a company that distributed 10.7 billion pills during the seven-year period, for a mere $20 million. He settled with AmerisourceBergen for only $16 million even though they distributed 8.9 billion pills during the same time period. Given the new information, Hall called Morrisey’s settlements “an embarrassment.”
The American Enterprise Institute estimates the opioid epidemic is costing West Virginia $8.8 billion a year. When former Attorney General Darrell McGraw originally filed the lawsuits, he intended to get justice for the people of West Virginia.
So why did Morrisey settle the cases he inherited with these companies for so little?
Maybe it has something to do with his ties to the people who produce opioids and have become billionaires.
Before he became attorney general, Morrisey lobbied for an industry association that listed Cardinal Health, the third-largest opioid distributor, among its members.
Morrisey’s wife is a lobbyist and partner of a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm that represents health care industry clients. In fact, she was a lobbyist for Cardinal from 1999 through 2016, while it was saturating West Virginia with drugs that killed and addicted hundreds of West Virginians.
“Patrick Morrisey’s meager settlements with some of the companies responsible for the current public health crisis will do little to clean up the mess they created,” Hall wrote. “They are an annoyance at best to these multimillion-dollar corporations and won’t make a dent in the annual $8.8 billion that West Virginia has to shell out to try to deal with this preventable public health crisis. Morrisey sold us out. West Virginians deserve better.”
Big Pharma is not the only group that has all but destroyed West Virginia and left us with little or no hope because of addictions. The doctors who prescribed these drugs beyond what was needed and kept prescribing them while collecting millions for writing prescriptions are to blame as well but to a lesser expense. I am not sure all of these physicians have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
But the primary guilt belongs to the pill-pushing drug companies who didn’t alert state government to the fact that they were sending enough opioids to the state to overdose and kill hundreds of our state citizens.