The opioid epidemic has been a significant issue facing the entire country for the past several years. Recently, the opioid epidemic was put on display in Washington, as a major case went to trial against three major opioid distributors. The companies are accused of filing hundreds of thousands of suspect orders for drugs, and the state alleges that many of these orders ended up in the hands of drug dealers, who were then able to distribute them to people on the street. As a result, some people may have gotten their hands on opioid medications without a prescription, leading to opioid hospitalizations and deaths.
The three major drug manufacturers involved in the case include Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. The allegations are that the companies shipped more than 250,000 orders to the state of Washington over an eight-year period despite having a legal obligation not to fill any orders that would likely end up in the hands of drug dealers.
By law, drug distributors are required to monitor the orders they receive. If they appear suspicious, they are required by law to report them to the drug enforcement agency. Furthermore, distributors are required to investigate any orders that look suspicious, making sure they do not end up on the black market.
To win the case, the state will have to prove that the companies either knew or should have known that many of these orders were suspicious. Then, the state will also have to prove that many of these suspicious orders ended up in the hands of drug dealers. The state is seeking a transformative amount of money that will help the region heal.
Of note, before the case went to trial, the defendants rejected a settlement offer of more than $527 million. If the distributors lose at trial, it would not be surprising if the penalty was even higher than that. If the state receives money from these companies as a result of the lawsuit, the money will go toward funding the state’s opioid response plan. The goal of the plan is to help those who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic while also putting new measures in place that will make it harder to distribute opioids illegally throughout Washington.