The West Virginia attorney general has filed two additional opioids lawsuits against two companies accused of helping to fuel the opioid epidemic in the state by ignoring obligations to report suspicious orders of the painkillers.
The lawsuits, filed in Putnam County on Tuesday, allege the companies violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance. Both seek injunctive and equitable relief.
The lawsuits allege Walmart and CVS, as opioid distributors, supplied more opioids to their retail pharmacies than necessary for what would be legitimate market needs. In addition, the companies ordered more pills from other distributors to fulfill the high demand.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey argues the businesses knew they had an obligation to halt suspicious orders to their retail pharmacies, but failed to monitor or report any.
“We must hold everyone accountable for the roles they played in the opioid epidemic and continue to push toward solutions that go after the root cause of the problem,” he said.
Walmart and CVS were among the state’s top 10 opioid distributors from 2006 to 2014, according to data released by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration last year.
The civil complaints were filed in Putnam County Circuit Court.
The complaints do not make claims related to either company’s role in dispensing opioids to patients, but instead state the retail data offered them unique knowledge and notice that their operations were meeting a more than legitimate market demand.
Rather than report the suspicious orders and stop diversion, the companies continued to sell, ship and profit from the opioids, the complaints said.
The DEA ARCOS data keeps track of every opioid pill from the time it is created to when it is dispensed by a pharmacy. Eight years of that data was publicly released last year after HD Media, the parent company of The Herald-Dispatch, and The Washington Post were successful in seeking its release in federal court.
From 2006 to 2014, more than 1.1 billion prescription pain pills were supplied to West Virginia.
The amount of pills increased substantially until the amount distributed started to decrease around 2008-09, which made many pill users turn to illegal drugs, such as heroin, to handle withdrawal symptoms and other issues that come with substance use disorder.
According to that data, from 2006 to 2014 Walmart’s 86.78 million pills distributed was the fifth most opioids distributed by a single company throughout West Virginia. CVS was the sixth most, with 84.46 million distributed.
Cabell County saw 81 million pills distributed from 2006 to 2014. At 9 million pills distributed, CVS distributed the third most pills, followed by Walmart with the fourth most pills — 5.56 million. In Wayne County, CVS distributed the third most — 2.18 million — and Walmart distributed the fifth most — 1.8 million.
In Kanawha County, CVS distributed the eighth most — 7.6 million — and Walmart, the ninth most — 6 million.
The lawsuits follow similar filings made in June against Rite Aid and Walgreens. Last year, Morrisey made other filings against opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Mallinckrodt LLC.