The three largest distributors of American drugs, accused of having helped fuel the opioid crisis that has led to nearly 500,000 overdose deaths in the United States, will defend themselves in a trial that begins Monday.
The lawsuit against AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. in Charleston, West Virginia, involves a more than $ 1 billion lawsuit brought by the City of Huntington and Cabell County.
They say companies have ignored red flags that opioids were being diverted to illegal channels, flooding the state with hundreds of millions of highly addictive pills.
The distributors have denied the claims, arguing that they cannot be held responsible for the distribution of pills prescribed by doctors.
Huntington and Cabell, along with other cities and counties in West Virginia, have pulled out of a proposed $ 26 billion nationwide settlement with the three distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.
A verdict in the lawsuit could help lay the groundwork for a settlement in the broad national opioid crisis litigation, which includes more than 3,300 lawsuits by local governments across the country against manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies of opioids.
Opioids resulted in the overdose deaths of nearly 500,000 people in the United States between 1999 and 2019, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Virginia is one of the hardest-hit states, recording more opioid prescriptions and overdose deaths per capita than any other in 2018, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.
Another opioid lawsuit is pending in a case brought by California counties against J&J and other drugmakers, and a lawsuit in a New York counties case is expected to begin next month.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Bill Berkrot)
Virginia West Virginia
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