May 03, 2019

Sen. Joe Manchin Criticizes McKesson Corp. Settlement | The Wheeling Intelligencer

PARKERSBURG — A $37 million settlement announced Thursday between the state of West Virginia and a pharmaceutical distributor didn’t pass muster with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Manchin criticized the agreement announced by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Gov. Jim Justice with McKesson Corp., calling it “horrific and inadequate … for flooding West Virginia with opioids and killing thousands of West Virginians.” Manchin in October said Morrisey and McKesson were settling on a $35 million deal, which was denied by the office of the attorney general.

“I spoke out then and I’m speaking out now that it makes me sick that the very people that are supposed to protect West Virginians are letting a drug distributor screw us over,” Manchin said. 

“It makes me sick, and I know it makes every West Virginian sick, especially those who have lost someone to this drug epidemic or know someone who is struggling with drug addiction now. 

This disgraceful settlement is a shameful injustice to us all.”

Morrisey and Justice said the company agreed to pay the state $14.5 million this year and $4.5 million each year for the next five years, a total of $37 million. The lawsuit was filed in 2016.

Manchin has no credibility “to criticize any measures the state takes to clean up from the cataclysmic wake he left by driving West Virginia into the height of the opioid crisis while he was governor,” said Curtis Johnson, Morrisey’s press secretary.

“While Attorney General Morrisey and subsequent governors have fought to realize historic recoveries from drug distributors, it seems Manchin’s most significant impact in the opioid epidemic was the record-breaking numbers of pills he allowed to proliferate throughout the state during his watch,” Johnson said. “It is the height of political hypocrisy for him to now criticize the state’s efforts to pick up the pieces from when he was asleep at the switch.”

McKesson in a release also on Thursday said the agreement doesn’t include an admission of liability and “McKesson expressly denies wrongdoing.” The money will be used for opioid addiction programs including rehabilitation, job training and mental health, the company said

“McKesson is committed to working with others to end this national crisis, however, and is pleased that the settlement provides funding toward initiatives intended to address the opioid epidemic,” the company said.

West Virginia has the highest overdose rate in the nation.

The press release issued through the attorney general’s office said the $37 million settlement is believed to be the largest state settlement of its kind against any single pharmaceutical distributor. The settlement brings the total paid by 13 pharmaceutical wholesalers to West Virginia to more than $84 million combined and the total “stands as the largest pharmaceutical settlement in state history,” the release said.

The settlement resolves claims by the state over the distribution of controlled substances in West Virginia, but does not resolve allegations brought by counties, municipalities or other political subdivisions within West Virginia, the release said. The most recent was a lawsuit filed Monday in Marshall County by more than 20 hospitals in West Virginia over opioid marketing and distribution.

The lawsuit against McKesson was filed by the attorney general, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Manchin cited McKesson revenues, which were $208.4 billion in 2018.

“How can Patrick Morrisey and Jim Justice look West Virginians in the eye and tell them $37 million is fair? It’s pennies on the dollar to what McKesson cost our state. Just like Morrisey and Justice know this is a sweetheart deal for McKesson, West Virginians know firsthand what this epidemic has cost our communities,” Manchin said. “I stand with them in their anger at this disgraceful settlement.”

A message requesting a comment from Justice was not immediately returned.

The state of Oklahoma settled an opioid lawsuit for $270 million and Oklahoma’s rate of opioid-related deaths is 80 percent lower than in West Virginia, Manchin said.

“But they got almost 10 times more money,” he said.

“When we settled our tobacco lawsuits when I was still in state government, we got $1.8 billion for the state of West Virginia,” he said. “How in the world, do Justice and Morrisey think 1/10th of what Oklahoma got is a great deal? McKesson has shipped over 100 million opioid pills into West Virginia, and this epidemic has done $8.8 billion in damage annually. The governor and attorney general either don’t know how to negotiate, don’t understand the scope of this problem or don’t care about the impact this epidemic has had on the state of West Virginia. Either way, they have failed our state.”

Settlements are approved by the attorney general’s office, Justice and secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Resources and Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. All parties agreed to the settlement to avoid the delay, expense, inconvenience and uncertainty of protracted litigation, the release from the attorney general’s office said.

Previous settlements were from Cardinal Health ($20 million), AmerisourceBergen ($16 million), H.D. Smith ($3.5 million), Miami-Luken ($2.5 million), Anda Inc. ($1,865,250), The Harvard Drug Group ($1 million), Associated Pharmacies ($850,000), J.M. Smith Corporation ($400,000), KeySource Medical Inc. ($250,000), Quest Pharmaceuticals ($250,000), Top Rx ($200,000) and Masters Pharmaceutical LLC ($200,000).


By:  Jess Mancini