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Massive three drug distributors blame docs, regulators in trial over opioid epidemic By Reuters 


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A full syringe, empty syringe and spoon sit on the roof of the automotive in Lynn


By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) – The three largest U.S. drug distributors, dealing with their first trial over claims that they fueled the opioid disaster, mentioned duty for ballooning painkiller gross sales lies with docs, drugmakers and regulators.

AmerisourceBergen (NYSE:) Corp, McKesson Corp (NYSE:) and Cardinal Well being Inc (NYSE:) are defending themselves in opposition to a lawsuit introduced by the town of Huntington and Cabell County in West Virginia.

“We intend to show the easy reality that the distributor defendants bought a mountain of opioid tablets into our group, fueling the opioid epidemic,” Paul Farrell, a lawyer for Cabell County, mentioned in his opening assertion in Charleston, West Virginia federal courtroom.

Huntington and Cabell are searching for cash to deal with the toll the opioid disaster has wreaked on their communities – estimated by one in every of their knowledgeable witnesses at $2.6 billion.

The distributors say that they’re middlemen who shouldn’t be held answerable for an epidemic that has killed practically 500,000 individuals in the USA.

The quantity of opioids bought in West Virginia and elsewhere is decided by docs who prescribe the painkillers and by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which units quotas for his or her manufacturing, the businesses contend.

“We’re a mirror on what occurs in healthcare,” Enu Mainigi, a lawyer for Cardinal, mentioned Monday. “We mirror it, we do not drive it.”

Opioids resulted within the overdose deaths of practically 500,000 individuals in the USA from 1999 to 2019, in response to the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. West Virginia is among the many hardest hit states, recording extra opioid prescriptions and overdose deaths per capita than some other in 2018, in response to information from the Nationwide Institutes of Well being.

Mainigi mentioned a surge in opioid prescriptions within the 2000s was pushed by a change in medical care, as docs had been inspired to deal with ache extra aggressively.

A verdict within the non-jury trial earlier than U.S. District Decide David Faber may assist lay the groundwork for settlements within the sprawling nationwide litigation over the opioid disaster, which encompasses greater than 3,300 lawsuits by native governments across the nation in opposition to opioid producers, distributors and pharmacies.

Farrell mentioned on Monday that the trial, anticipated to final 12 weeks, would present the distributors ignored quite a few “black flags” that their medicine had been being diverted into unlawful channels.

The defendants have denied such allegations.

“We at all times reported suspicious orders,” mentioned Robert Nicholas, a lawyer for AmerisourceBergen.

The distributors’ attorneys additionally mentioned most opioid deaths stem from unlawful medicine like heroin, and that there was no proof prescription tablets had been a “gateway” to these medicine.

Huntington and Cabell County beforehand opted out of a proposed $26 billion nationwide settlement with the three distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:).

One other opioid trial is underway in a case introduced by California counties in opposition to J&J and different drugmakers, and a trial in a case introduced by New York counties is scheduled to start subsequent month.

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