FRANKFORT — Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed lawsuits against nine opioid manufacturers and distributors alleging they contributed to Kentucky’s opioid crisis, eight of which have now survived motions to dismiss.
The latest is at Boone Circuit Court, where Judge James Schrand issued an order denying Walgreens’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Circuit judges in Fayette, Floyd, Hardin, Madison and McCracken counties have denied motions to dismiss by Teva Pharmaceuticals, AmerisourceBergen, Insys Therapeutics, Mallinckrodt and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, respectively. Motions to dismiss were filed in Franklin Circuit Court by Endo Pharmaceuticals and McKesson Corporation; both were denied as well.
The only case still awaiting a ruling on a motion to dismiss involves the complaint against Cardinal Health, whose motion was heard in Jefferson Circuit Court May 23.
In the Boone County case, Beshear alleges that Walgreens, whose 2018 second quarter sales topped $33 billion, failed to use its unique position as a pharmacy and distributor to prevent the flood of opioids into Kentucky.
The suit claims that as a distributor, the company has real-time data regarding the exact amounts of pills, pill types and customer orders for its store and is legally required to report suspicious orders to the DEA. The company has distribution centers close to Kentucky’s borders in Illinois and Ohio.
As a pharmacy, it is legally required to monitor and flag suspicious customer prescriptions, such as individuals traveling long distances to fill prescriptions or doctors prescribing outside the scope of their usual practice.
During a Capitol press conference announcing the lawsuit in June 2018, Beshear told reporters Walgreens shipped so many opioids to Kentucky that any reasonable company would have known it was wrong and needed to stop.
“Its pharmacies filled so many opioid prescriptions that the company could see, on the community and individual family level, the harm that was occurring. But Walgreens did not stop.”
The lawsuit also claims unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices by Walgreens for excessively distributing and dispensing opioids in Kentucky and for failing to legally report to state and federal authorities the suspiciously large orders it received for prescription opioids.
“These opioid companies must stand before Kentuckians and be held accountable for what they have done to our families, friends and neighbors,” Beshear said. “Our litigation team has defeated every one of these attempts to shirk responsibility and these corporations will ultimately have to pay to help our communities recover from this opioid epidemic.”
In one of the nine lawsuits the defendant, Insys Therapeutics, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and has requested the case be stayed pending the outcome of the bankruptcy case.
“They cannot absolve themselves by simply filing for bankruptcy,” Beshear said. “I will chase them through bankruptcy or any other court and make sure they are held accountable for the harm they have caused our Kentucky families.”
Beshear said he will continue moving these cases through the court system to seek justice for the Kentucky communities devastated by these companies’ actions.
With the nine lawsuits brought by Beshear, Kentucky leads the nation in the number of individual opioid lawsuits filed by an attorney general.
No trail dates have yet been set in any of the cases, nor the amount of damages being sought.