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Morrisey lobbied for pill distribution trade group

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey formerly lobbied for a national drug distribution trade association in Washington, D.C., generating $250,000 for his law firm over 16 months.Now, Morrisey's office is managing a lawsuit against 10 out-of-state drug companies that belong to the same trade association.The lawsuit -- filed by former attorney general Darrell McGraw in June 2012 -- alleges that the drug wholesalers profited from West Virginia's prescription drug abuse problem. Morrisey, a Republican, defeated Democrat McGraw in the November general election.From September 2010 to December 2011, Morrisey lobbied for the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group that has 32 member companies, 10 of which are defendants in the West Virginia attorney general's lawsuit, records show.Morrisey's office has a separate lawsuit -- with essentially the same allegations -- against prescription drug distributor Cardinal Health, which also is a member of the trade association. Morrisey has said he recused himself from the Cardinal Health case the day he took office in mid-January. He assigned his chief deputy, Dan Greear, to manage the Cardinal Health lawsuit.Morrisey did not respond to questions about the second lawsuit against the drug companies this week. He would not say if he stepped aside from that case, which was filed in Boone County Circuit Court.The prescription drug distributors named in the second lawsuit are: AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Co., of Delaware; Miami-Luken Inc., KeySource Medical Inc. and Masters Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Ohio; Harvard Drug Group and Auburn Pharmaceutical Co., of Michigan; J.M. Smith Corp., of South Carolina; Associated Pharmacies of Alabama; Quest Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Richie Pharmacal Co., of Kentucky; Top Rx of Tennessee; and Anda Inc., of Florida.Only Masters Pharmaceuticals, Quest Pharmaceuticals and Associated Pharmacies Inc. aren't members of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, according to the group's website.While an attorney at the King & Spalding law firm in Washington, Morrisey lobbied on behalf of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association to lower the prices paid by drug distributors to manufacturers of Medicare drugs, according to his lobbying disclosure forms.The form lists Morrisey as the only lawyer at the firm who lobbied for the trade association, which paid $250,000 for his advocacy work over a year and four months, according to congressional records.Morrisey's contract with the trade association ended in December 2011, by mutual agreement, and on good terms, Morrisey told the Legal Times, a weekly newspaper that covers law and lobbying in Washington.A spokesman for the Healthcare Distribution Management Association said the group hired Morrisey as a lobbyist after it merged with the Specialty & Biotech Distributors Association in 2010. At the time, Morrisey headed the SBDA, said John Parker, an HDMA spokesman. The specialty drugs trade group had six member companies, including Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen -- two of the firms now being sued by Morrisey's office.Morrisey also was SBDA's lead lobbyist in 2010, according to disclosure forms. The organization paid him $30,000 before the merger."As the head of SBDA at the time, Morrisey was retained by HDMA for 18 months following the integration to provide government affairs services on legislative and regulatory issues affecting specialty health-care distribution," Parker said Wednesday. "At the end of 2011, HDMA moved to avoid duplication of services and to rely on existing staff and expertise to address pharmaceutical issues."According to the Healthcare Distribution Management Association's website, member businesses store nearly 56,000 prescription medications and other products, from more than 1,000 manufacturers, in their facilities before they're sent to pharmacies. Member companies paid $7.2 million in dues to the association in 2011, according to federal tax filings.The lawsuit that Morrisey inherited from McGraw seeks to cut off distribution routes to "pill mill" doctors and pharmacies. The complaint alleges that the out-of-state wholesalers haven't done enough to stop the flow of addictive painkillers to Southern West Virginia.Last September, two months after McGraw filed the lawsuit, AmerisourceBergen gave $1,000 to Morrisey's campaign. The company also donated $1,000 to Morrisey in March 2012.Morrisey has recused himself from two other lawsuits filed by the state against drug companies since taking office.Morrisey's wife, Denise Henry, lobbies for two of the companies -- Cardinal Health and Sanofi. Morrisey is a former lobbyist for Sanofi, according to federal disclosure forms.McGraw filed the Sanofi lawsuit in late December, 17 days before Morrisey took office. The lawsuit alleges that Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb falsely marketed the blood-thinner Plavix.Sanofi has paid $180,000 to Capitol Counsel, Henry's D.C.-based lobbying firm, so far this year. Since 2010, the drug company paid Henry's firm more than $1 million, according to congressional records. Morrisey lobbied for Sanofi from 2006 to 2008.Morrisey recused himself from the lawsuit against Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb on Aug. 5, the same day The Charleston Gazette submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to his office for documents in the case, according to a letter sent to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office.Last month, Morrisey announced he also had recused himself from the Cardinal lawsuit, after the newspaper reported that Morrisey received a $2,500 contribution from the Ohio drug company to help pay for the attorney general's inauguration party. Morrisey's wife has lobbied for Cardinal Health since 2002.In April, Cardinal Health dismissed former U.S. Sen. Carte Goodwin as its lawyer on the case and hired two attorneys politically connected to Morrisey. One of the lawyers headed Morrisey's election transition team, while the other donated to Morrisey's campaign and inauguration committee fund.Morrisey said he stepped aside from the Cardinal case "since the beginning of the year." He alleged that McGraw "implied" at a parade during last year's campaign that McGraw filed suit against Cardinal Health to retaliate against Morrisey for running against him.McGraw said he never spoke to Morrisey about the Cardinal Health lawsuit.Earlier this week, Morrisey announced that he has recused himself from a third case, this one filed by McGraw in 2010 against Bank of America, as first reported by the Charleston Daily Mail. Morrisey's former law firm, King & Spalding, is representing Bank of America. The lawsuit alleges that Bank of America and other financial institutions conspired to keep money from the state, skirted bidding practices and charged unnecessary fees.Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.

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