Another West Virginia town joins ranks of municipalities suing pharma over opioid epidemic

The city of Welch, W.Va., is suing five organizations in the pharmaceutical supply chain for contributing to high rates of opioid drug abuse in the 2,200-population town, according to the West Virginia Record. Welch is one of several cities across the nation suing members of the drug industry for their role in the opioid epidemic.

The compliant issued by Mayor Reba Honaker and the city of Welch accuses five drug companies or distributors of creating a "public nuisance" that has adversely affected the lives residents and burdened the city's sanitation, law enforcement and emergency services. The five companies named in the suit are McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health, Miami-Luken, and H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Co.

"This matter involves a serious breach of the public trust, which has resulted in drug abuse, misuse and overdose deaths," the complaint states, according to the Record. "Like sharks circling their prey, multibillion dollar companies, along with smaller players like local physicians, descended upon Appalachia for the sole purpose of profiting off of the prescription drug fueled feeding frenzy commonly referred to ... as the opioid epidemic."

In the vein of a similar lawsuit filed in Huntington, W.Va., the Welch suit implicates a specific physician. The suit alleges Harold Anthony Cofer Jr., MD, made no effort to determine whether the prescriptions for opioid painkillers he wrote were excessive.

From 2007 to 2012, more than 1,700 West Virginians fatally overdosed on hydrocodone and oxycodone alone. During the same time period, drug companies poured these two medications into the state. The widespread dissemination amounted to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in the state, according to a Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation.

More articles on opioids: 
BCBS of Tennessee launches efforts to curb state's opioid abuse 'crisis' 
Louisville, Kentucky sees surge in 911 calls for overdoses 
Minn. launches anti-opioid ad campaign

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