CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey presented opening arguments Monday at the state’s trial involving drug manufacturers Janssen, Teva, and Allergan in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
The Attorney General alleges the manufacturers helped fuel the opioid epidemic in West Virginia by engaging in strategic campaigns to deceive prescribers and misrepresent the risks and benefits of opioid painkillers.
WV Attorney General Morrisey to Brief Media on Opioid Trial from WV Attorney General on Vimeo.
“I appear before you today seeking accountability for arguably one of the largest and most destructive man-made public health crises in our state’s history,” Attorney General Morrisey said in addressing Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope during the opening arguments.
The Attorney General then walked over to the whiteboard in the courtroom and wrote the following numbers: 1 – West Virginia led the nation in overdose deaths from 1999 to 2019 – 10,054, the number of people who have perished during this time period from this public health catastrophe; 2, meaning West Virginia is sometimes two times higher than the national average in overdose deaths; for some years, West Virginia’s overdose rate was 25% higher than the second highest state; 55, the number of all West Virginia counties that have been devastated from this problem from all walks of life; 5 times the rate in which neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, has increased in West Virginia from 2008 to 2017; 10.64, the number of NAS babies per 1,000 births in 2008 to 56.17 per 1,000 births in 2017, which is far higher than the national average; 40, approximately 40% of the foster care placements are due to parental drug use in the state; 34,000 is the number of children in the state that have a parent in either jail or prison; 12.9, the percentage of prisoners that have an opioid use disorder (OUD); and finally 3 is the three families of manufacturer defendants.
“Our lawsuit speaks for all West Virginians who have suffered due to defendants’ unlawful, unreasonable, callous and destructive treatment. No amount of time will ever heal their wounds,” Attorney General Morrisey said in his opening arguments. “But we can have accountability.”
The lawsuits, filed separately in 2019 in Boone County Circuit Court, allege the defendants’ concealed misconduct, mischaracterized and failed to disclose the serious risk of addiction, overstated the benefits of chronic opioid therapy and promoted higher dosage amounts without disclosing inherently greater risks. One lawsuit is against the Janssen family of opioid manufacturers, the second lawsuit is against the Teva and Allergan family of companies.
The Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., lawsuit alleges its subsidiary and co-defendant, Johnson & Johnson, turned the standard of care on its head by choosing to persuade concerned doctors that the opioids they had been unwilling to prescribe were more effective and safe enough for wide and long-term use, even for treatment of relatively minor pain conditions.
Both lawsuits allege the manufacturers’ conduct and campaign of misrepresentations led to opioids becoming a common treatment for chronic pain in West Virginia, a reality that fueled substance abuse and the state’s skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths.
The Attorney General alleges the manufacturers’ conduct violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance. Both lawsuits seek injunctive and equitable relief.
The Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. lawsuit also names Cephalon, Inc. as a defendant. Both are subsidiaries of Teva Pharmaceuticals Limited.
The Allergan defendants include Allergan Finance, LLC, formerly known as Actavis, Inc., fka Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Allergan Sales LLC; Allergan USA, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Warner Chilcott Company, LLC; Actavis Pharma, Inc., fka Watson Pharma, Inc.; Actavis South Atlantic, LLC; Actavis Elizabeth, LLC; Actavis Mid Atlantic, LLC; Actavis Totowa, LLC; Actavis LLC; Actavis Kadian, LLC; Actavis Laboratories UT, Inc., fka Watson Laboratories, Inc.-Salt Lake City and Actavis Laboratories FL, Inc,. fka Watson Laboratories, Inc.– Florida.
The civil complaints can be read at https://bit.ly/3tO3x9O (Teva) and https://bit.ly/3K2ytbS (Janssen).