CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A landmark civil trial could be winding down in West Virginia against three large opioid distributors accused of fueling a local opioid crisis, as attorneys for the defendants indicated they expect to wrap up their case one month ahead of schedule.
While the federal bench trial in the lawsuit filed by Cabell County and the city of Huntington against distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. had been scheduled to last through mid-August, company attorneys said Thursday they expect to finish questioning witnesses next week, The Herald-Dispatch reported.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs finished up more than six weeks of testimony by calling their final witnesses last week.
The plaintiffs argue that the companies created a “public nuisance” by flooding the area with tens of millions of opioid doses over eight years and ignoring the signs that the small community along the Ohio River was being ravaged by addiction.
The companies, in turn, say poor communication and pill quotas set by federal agents are to blame, along with a rise in prescriptions. Dr. Kevin Murphy, a health economist, testified for the defense Thursday that the responsibility for the crisis rested with doctors, not the distributors.
Economist Peter Borberg also testified and disputed previous testimony from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigator James Rafalski, who said under oath that distributors failed to properly flag suspiciously large pain pill orders to the DEA. Borberg said the methodologies used by Rafalski were flawed and unreliable.
West Virginia for years has led the nation in the rate of drug overdose deaths.