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WV plumbing, HVAC company sues 18 drug firms over opioid epidemic

A local handyman company is suing 18 pharmaceutical companies, saying reckless marketing and negligent distribution of opioids caused insurance premiums in West Virginia to skyrocket.

Al Marino Inc. said the costs of filling the inflated prescriptions for opioids, paired with the subsequent cost of substance abuse recovery treatment, have been passed down to businesses and other health care insurance consumers, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

The company is seeking class-action status for the lawsuit. Al Marino wants unspecified damages and restitution.

The company is represented locally by Mark Troy, with the Troy Law Firm in Charleston. The company also is represented by James Young and Juan Martinez, both with Florida-based Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group.

In total, West Virginia has settled for $84 million among pharmaceutical companies for their roles in the opioid epidemic. Some of those companies, including McKesson Corp., are named as defendants in the Al Marino class-action lawsuit.

The defendants in the lawsuit filed this month are:

  • Purdue Pharma L.P.
  • Purdue Pharma Inc.
  • Purdue Frederick Co. Inc.
  • Insys Therapeutics Inc.
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.
  • Cephalon Inc.
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Endo Health Solutions Inc.

Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.

  • Actavis PLC
  • Actavis Inc.
  • Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  • Watson Laboratories Inc.
  • McKesson Corp.
  • Cardinal Health Inc.
  • AmerisourceBergen Corp.

In the lawsuit, Al Marino states that health care costs in West Virginia are increasing at a rate “far above” core inflation.

Between 1991 and 2014, health care related expenses for West Virginians increased 5.8 percent each year, according to the lawsuit. Insurance premiums for West Virginians increased 5.7 percent each year between 2001 and 2014, meaning the total amount spent per person went from $1,900 in 2001 to $3,917 in 2014.

During that time and since, Al Marino said, the 18 pharmaceutical companies were engaged in making false and misleading statements about the drugs, overstating their benefits and understating their risks.

That, Al Marino said, caused the dramatic increase in opioid prescriptions and the subsequent opioid abuse epidemic. All the while, the companies “earned billions in profits as a direct result of the harms they imposed,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notes that some of the pharmaceutical companies listed in the complaint have entered agreements prohibiting them from making misrepresentations about opioids.

Many of the people who became addicted to opioids, and some who later became addicted to heroin, would not have received access to opioids if the pharmaceutical companies had not engaged in what Al Marino says were unlawful marketing and distribution plans.

“... insured patients with opioid abuse or dependence diagnoses cost health insurers more than average patients, in West Virginia and nationwide,” attorneys said in the lawsuit.

The total annual cost of providing health care services for a person with an opioid abuse diagnosis is 550 percent higher than the cost for services for an average insured patient, according to the lawsuit.

“Thus, as the opioid crisis has barreled forward across the country and in West Virginia, so has the pressure on insurance companies to raise premiums,” attorneys said in the lawsuit.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge David Faber.

Reach Lacie Pierson at

lacie.pierson@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-1723 or follow

@laciepierson on Twitter.

Funerals for Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fink, Janice - 1:30 p.m., United Disciples of Christ Church, South Charleston.

Honaker, Dewey - 2 p.m., Arnett Assembly of God Church, Arnett.

Jenkins, Tina - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Payne, Joseph - 3 p.m., Gateway Christian Church, St. Albans.

Snyder, Janice - 4 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Vance, Kendall - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.