After lawsuit, drug company shuts off supply to Mingo pharmacy

The nation’s largest drug distributor cut off shipments of controlled substances to a Mingo County pharmacy last month over concerns of prescriptions being improperly filled there.

McKesson Corp. terminated its contract with Tug Valley Pharmacy in a phone call Jan. 8 — the same day West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced he was suing the drug distributor alleging it failed to detect, report and help stop the flood of controlled substances into the state.

On Jan. 20, an attorney for the pharmacy filed an emergency petition in Kanawha Circuit Court asking that a judge immediately force McKesson to continue providing it with controlled substances.

McKesson hadn’t provided the pharmacy with any advanced notice before cutting off shipments and that violates their business agreement, the petition argued.

Continuing business with Tug Valley Pharmacy would be a risk for McKesson, an attorney for the company wrote in response to the petition.

McKesson risks having the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency or the state Board of Pharmacy take regulatory action if it were to resume shipments to the pharmacy, attorney, Russell Jessee, of the firm, Steptoe and Johnson, wrote Jan. 25.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman had set a hearing for Jan. 29, but attorneys for both sides requested that it be canceled. An attorney for the pharmacy, Paul Stroebel, withdrew the petition. Court documents didn’t give any explanation about why the petition was withdrawn and Stroebel couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

McKesson did not agree to restart dispensing controlled substances to the pharmacy, Jessee said Tuesday. He would not comment further.

Besides the lawsuit brought by Morrisey’s office, McKesson wrote that it also cut off business with the pharmacy after finding out about the large number of prescriptions for controlled substances it was filling.

Tug Valley Pharmacy is a defendant in eight lawsuits, which allege it negligently filled prescriptions and caused customers to become addicted to opioids, McKesson points out in its response to the petition.

The company says it learned of the lawsuits against the pharmacy through a CBS News report and then began its own investigation into the pharmacy.

In a brief in one of the lawsuits, the response states, McKesson read testimony from the pharmacy’s owner, Samuel Ballengee, admitting that he filled more than 150 prescriptions a day from one pain clinic alone.

“Thus, McKesson’s review provided McKesson with a good-faith belief that continued shipments to the Tug Valley Pharmacy put McKesson ‘in jeopardy of being noncompliant’ with federal and/or state laws and regulations concerning the distribution of controlled substances,” the response states.

The lawsuit against McKesson filed by Morrisey’s office alleges that McKesson sent nearly 100 million doses of the prescription painkillers hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia between 2007 and 2012.

The attorney general’s lawsuit against McKesson came more than a year after two state agencies — the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety — asked Morrisey to sue the drug company. The agencies said McKesson was shipping an excessive number of pain pills to West Virginia.

McKesson had shipped drugs to the Tug Valley Pharmacy since last September, court documents show.

The company shipped 3.4 million doses to Mingo County, Morrisey’s office said, enough pills to give for 131 doses for each person.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

Funerals for Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Adkins, Kenneth - 11 a.m., Evans Funeral Home Chapel, Chapmanville.

Carney, Herman - 11 a.m., Poca United Methodist Church, Poca.

Chrislip, David - 11 a.m., Elk Funeral Home, Charleston.

Coon, Iverson - 2 p.m., Pleasant Grove Church, Reedy.

Fisher, Delmer - 1 p.m., Long and Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.

Frame, Joe - 2 p.m., Elk Hills Memorial Park, Big Chimney.

Gibson, Floyd - 1 p.m., Stevens & Grass Funeral Home. Malden.

Harmon-Ray, Barbara - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Kennedy, Eva - 11 a.m., Christ Church United Methodist, Charleston.

Patton, Loretta - 1 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Peters, Bobby - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Phillips, William - 3 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Ritchie, Juanita - 8 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Scott, Jimmie - 11 a.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Taylor, Kenneth - 1 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Tribble, Harvey - 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Buffalo.

Williamson, Grayson - 11 a.m., Anderson Funeral Home, New Haven.