McKesson Corp. has been named in a Cleveland lawsuit against many of the largest players in the pharmaceutical industry, the Washington Post reports. The filing describes the drug companies as solely focused on profits at the cost of the damage done to country by opioids. The companies say they should not be charged with second guessing the expertise of doctors who prescribe the pills.
The case consolidates claims from around the country, and because of documents released by a three judge panel last week, the direction and quantity of drugs is better able to be tracked between manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies.
The various local and state governments are arguing that McKesson and other companies such as Cardinal Health, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Purdue Pharma are taking part in civil racketeering that devastated communities, using a law originally designed to fight organized crime.
The drug companies told the Post they were merely selling legal medicine to legitimate patients with prescriptions, and pointed the finger at corrupt physicians and pharmacists who overprescribed without due diligence. The companies say they are not responsible for the actions of drug abusers.
A previously released DEA database shows that drug companies sent 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills around the country between 2006 and 2012, and around 2,000 municipalities are saying the companies knew they were contributing to an epidemic that has killed more than 200,000 since 1996, the Post reports.
McKesson is one of the largest companies in the United States and is the country’s largest drug distributor with 18 percent of the market. That includes 14.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills dispensed between 2006 and 2012 according to the DEA database.
The Post reports that on Aug. 31, 2011, David B. Gustin, McKesson Corp.’s then-director of regulatory affairs, said he was worried about the “number of accounts we have that have large gaps between the amount of Oxy or Hydro they are allowed to buy (their threshold) and the amount they really need,” according to the filing. “This increases the ‘opportunity’ for diversion by exposing more product for introduction into the pipeline than may be being used for legitimate purposes.”
“Suggesting that these two employees’ emails from nearly a decade ago are evidence of wrongdoing ignores the context in which McKesson and our employees were operating,” McKesson spokeswoman Kristin Chasen said in a statement to the Post Friday. “Doctors around the country were writing millions of additional opioid prescriptions year over year. Our regulator, the DEA, consistently raised the annual quota of pills that could be produced and distributed, which was a clear statement that the increase in prescriptions was appropriate, expected, and medically necessary. To imply that distributors should have second-guessed or overruled those decisions by the government and the medical community reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of our role. For decades, McKesson has consistently reported opioid transactions to the DEA. We have also invested heavily in further strengthening our anti-diversion program.”
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