Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed three lawsuits Friday, alleging three opioid distributors shirked their responsibilities and fueled the opioid crisis in that state.
Hunter filed suits against AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health, and McKesson in Bryan County District Court, where a large number of opioid addiction cases and overdose deaths have been reported. According to the suits, the distributors provided unreasonable quantities of opioids throughout the state, ignoring their duties against oversupply and diversion.
“By law, opioid distributors are required to stop suspicious shipments of opioids and report them to law enforcement,” Attorney General Hunter said. “These companies ignored their responsibilities because they were making billions of dollars, while Oklahomans, especially those in our rural communities, suffered. Even after warnings and paying hundreds of millions in settlements and fines for their irresponsible behavior, the companies persisted. We must hold them accountable for this behavior and for the deaths and continued suffering that occurred from their actions.”
According to the suits, in 2017, the three companies provided enough opioids to Bryan County that every adult resident there could have had 144 hydrocodone tablets. The suit goes on to say that between 2006 and 2014, more than 24 million pain pills were provided to Bryan County, and the three companies were responsible for supplying more than two-thirds of them.
All three of the companies have been targets of lawsuits across the country. In recent years, McKesson has paid out more than $163 million for its failure to report suspicious orders. Cardinal has paid out nearly $100 million for improper management and distribution of opioids. Amerisource Bergen has paid $16 million for its role in the opioid crisis, having lost its license to send controlled substances from one of its distribution centers in 2007 due to a lack of control over opioid shipments.
Oklahoma, Hunter’s office said, leads the country in non-medical use of painkillers, with nearly 5 percent of the adult population abusing or misusing painkillers. Between 2006 and 2012, there were over 1.4 billion opioid pills distributed in Oklahoma. In 2012, the state had the fifth-highest unintentional poisoning death rate, and, by 2014, the state’s unintentional poisoning rate was 107 percent higher than the national average.