Indiana sues distributors in opioid epidemic

One day after three opioid distributors reached a $260 million tentative settlement with two Ohio counties, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the same three companies, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp.

The 200-plus page complaint filed Tuesday in Marion Superior Court claims the companies violated Indiana law by distributing quantities of prescription opioids they knew or should have reasonably known exceeded legitimate medical and scientific needs. Moreover, according to the complaint, the companies engaged in deceptive, unfair and abusive business practices by marketing and promoting addictive and dangerous drugs.

“Distributors play a crucial role in the drug supply chain,” Hill said in a press release. “As wholesalers, they are the link between drug manufacturers and the pharmacies that sell drugs directly to consumers. When they conduct themselves responsibly, distributors should function as a significant line of defense to protect the public from too many pills flooding into our communities and being diverted away from legitimate medical channels. In Indiana, these distributors failed to meet their legal obligations, and the results have been devastating.”

On Monday, the three distributors along with the drugmaker Teva reached a tentative agreement to settle just as the first federal trial over the opioid epidemic was scheduled to begin in Cleveland.

According to the Indiana Attorney General, Indiana has had one of the highest rates of opioid prescribing and diversion in the nation. From 2012 to 2016, there were 58 Indiana counties with opioid prescribing rates greater than 100 prescriptions per 100 residents per year. Also, as of 2012, Indiana had the ninth-highest rate of opioid prescriptions per capita—and the fifth-highest rates of diversion—in the U.S.

More than 3,000 Hoosiers died of opioid overdoses between 2010 and 2016.

Indiana has filed separate lawsuits against opioid pill manufacturer Purdue Pharma, one in November 2018 and another against the owners and directors of the company in May 2019.

In September, Hill advocated for a settlement with Purdue.

According to the Indiana Attorney General, the lawsuit against the distributors was the result of a months-long investigation that included multiple depositions of individuals in the industry and extensive review of company documents. The Attorney General is being assisted in this matter by the law firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Zimmerman Reed LLP.

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