Last September, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan stood in front of the Chittenden County Superior Court to announce that the state was suing Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin and other opioids. Today, he was back to announce new lawsuits against two drug distributors.
Donovan announced that he had filed a lawsuit in Chittenden Superior Court against Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corporation, two companies that distribute opiate drugs in the state. Donovan says the legal action is part of the state’s strategy to confront the opioid crisis in Vermont. “These are separate lawsuits that’s part of our strategy to bring about corporate accountability that has to be brought in order to bring about justice for the opiate crisis that I believe they bear responsibility for starting. This is something that is I think a priority I know is a priority for our state. Vermont’s been devastated by this. Too many people have died. Too many lives have been ruined. And we need to hold the people and the corporations accountable who started this crisis and that’s why we’re filing these lawsuits.”
Donovan says rather than being a first line of defense, the two companies failed to legally fulfill their obligation to monitor and control opioid distribution and failed to notify regulators about the surge of the drugs entering the state. “They were supposed to be the first major line of defense. They didn’t do their jobs. They abdicated their responsibilities. They failed to notify regulators about increasing indicators of widespread diversion. So the opiate epidemic continued to grow unchecked in Vermont for years as a result of their negligence and Cardinal Health and McKesson not doing their job to look for those indicators that if too many pills were coming in they were supposed to say ‘something is wrong’. Not only did these companies fail to use their data to prevent and stop diversion they actually used it to target potential customers and strategize ways to increase their market share while they publically denied it.”
The first settlement with Purdue Pharma – the maker of OxyContin – was announced Tuesday between the company and the state of Oklahoma over allegations that company helped to create the country’s opioid crisis. Donovan says it’s too early to determine the local implications of Oklahoma’s $270 million settlement. “We have three different layers here. Oklahoma like Vermont brought its own case and I think it’s too early to say what that means from a national standpoint or for us. The best thing we can do is continue to litigate our case. I think we’ve got to wait to get all the details about that settlement before we opine what that means. I would just congratulate Oklahoma on reaching that settlement and my sense is that the pace will pick up perhaps on this.”
A link to Vermont’s complaint against Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation: