Knox fights back in opioid crisis

Knox has joined ranks with a number of Kentucky counties and a team of attorneys that have filed lawsuits against three major pharmaceutical distributers.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on September 12, claims that AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., and McKesson Corporation ‘unlawfully sold millions of prescription opioids into Knox County…such unlawful conduct resulted in the foreseeable, widespread diversion of prescription opioids into the illicit market…creating a serious public health and safety crisis in the County involving opioid abuse, addition, morbidity and mortality, and is a public nuisance.’

“Knox County, in conjunction with several other counties, has retained counsel to bring a civil suit against the corporations that were given the authority to monitor and control the number of prescription medications distributed to our area,” said Knox County Attorney Gilbert Holland. “The purpose of the suit is to recover some of the money the county has spent to fight the opioid crisis and treat those affected by the abundant number of opioids available in our area.”

In 1970, Congress created a “closed” chain of distribution in order to prevent legally produced substances from being diverted into the illicit market. This “closed” chain gave wholesale distributors the responsibility of monitoring, identifying, halting, and reporting any suspicious orders of controlled substances. According to court documents, the three defendants ‘dominate 85 percent of the market share for the distribution of prescription opioids’ and ‘each has been investigated and/or fined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for failure to report suspicious orders,’ namely for hydrocodone and oxycodone. The suit alleges that all three distributors knew of their responsibilities but did not carry out their duties. On these grounds, the suit was filed ‘for public nuisance; for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; for damages under Kentucky Revised Statutes, and for negligence.’ 

Of the three companies, McKesson Corporation is the only defendant that previously admitted to breaching its duties at various times between January 2009 and January 2017, and subsequently paid 150,000,000 in fines to the United States.