West Virginia and Kentucky hospitals sign suit aimed at pharma industry

Thirty-seven hospitals in two states have filed a lawsuit in Marshall County, West Virginia, against numerous opioid manufacturers, distributors and several individuals, according to WV MetroNews, late April 29.

Stephen Farmer of law firm Farmer, Cline and Campbell announced the suit, calling it the first of its kind in the United States.

The complaint filed in court, April 29, claims evidence of a criminal conspiracy that has devastated West Virginia and “tens of thousands of its families.”

West Virginia University Hospitals, United Hospital Center and Charleston Area Medical Center Health System are among three of the largest hospitals to attach their names to the suit — featuring 27 West Virginia hospitals and 10 Kentucky in total.

The complaint names 22 defendants across the spectrum of pharmaceutical marketing, distribution, retail and one known individual. The complaint also names 100 “John Doe” defendants — whose true names the plaintiffs have yet to identify.

In part, the 341-page complaint claims marketing defendants used “key opinion leaders” by “funding, assisting, encouraging, and directing doctors” and “creating, funding, assisting, directing, and/or encouraging seemingly neutral and credible professional societies and patient advocacy groups” to “profoundly influence, and at times control, the sources that doctors and patients relied on for ostensibly “neutral guidance.”

The complaint further claims that the marketing defendants pushed to increase opioid sales, while the supply side was sustained by manufacturers and distributors. The compliant also claims the defendants “systematically and repeatedly disregarded the health and safety of the public.”

“By providing misleading information to doctors about addiction being rare and opioids being safe even in high doses, then pressuring those doctors into prescribing their products by arguing, among other things, that no one should be in pain, especially chronic pain, the Marketing Defendants created a population of addicted patients who sought opioids to never-before-seen rates.”