AG settles with one company as major opioid court case looms

Contributed MORRISEY — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a settlement with an opioid company Wednesday as it prepares for a trial next week with other companies.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Wednesday a settlement with an opioid manufacturer with a major opioid-related trial set to begin next week.

During a press conference from the Capitol, Morrisey announced a $26 million settlement with Endo Pharmaceuticals. The state first filed suit against Endo in 2019.

The Attorney General’s Office and Endo signed a memorandum of understanding, though the memorandum must still be approved by the counties and cities the Attorney General’s Office is representing.

“We think this is a very positive step for the State of West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “We believe this will be a nice opportunity to put resources in to really target it to where it is needed most. This is a significant development.”

The $26 million will be sent to the state in a lump sum for distribution among the local government parties.

As part of the agreement, Endo also agreed to not make any false or deceptive claims about opioids, not encourage the use of opioids for pain management or promote opioids through its sales team to physicians or other third party groups. The company must also implement a monitoring program to identify suspicious orders.

Morrisey said his office engaged in settlement discussions last December, with the final memorandum of understanding signed Wednesday morning.

“We are appreciative of this Endo settlement because we think it really represents a big step forward,” Morrisey said. “It’s expected that this will be a settlement that reflects not only the State of West Virginia, but all of its subdivisions.”

The settlement will be the first to be distributed through the West Virginia First program unveiled by Morrisey last month. West Virginia First is a formula for distributing the opioid litigation settlements and creates a new state non-profit group that also will receive settlement funds.

Under the formula, 24.5 percent of opioid settlements would go to cities and counties, 3 percent would go to the Attorney General’s Office and 72.5 percent would go to the Opioid Foundation, a non-profit that would be set up by the Attorney General’s Office. Once settlement funds are distributed, they can be used by cities and counties for developing programs for substance abuse avoidance, research and education; funding for law enforcement to combat the sale and distribution of drugs; and substance abuse treatment and recovery.

“No city or county has said ‘no’ yet to the West Virginia First foundation. That is very significant,” Morrisey said. “We’re hopeful to get everything ratified over the course of the next couple of weeks. This Endo settlement today will be another big step forward, because it will mean money that can begin flowing to that foundation potentially as early as July.”

The Endo settlement means it will not be part of the three companies on trial next week. Opening statements in the trial of pharmaceutical companies Janssen, Teva and Allergan start Monday.

Morrisey will present the state’s opening argument himself. The trial could take as long as two months and involve dozens of witnesses during the span of the trial in Kanawha County. While the Cabell County and the city of Huntington case against AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. ended seven months ago, Morrisey said this was the first trial of its kind in the state.

“This is going to be something that the people of West Virginia have not really seen before, because as many people know this is the first statewide trial,” Morrisey said. “All the way from Parkersburg to the Eastern Panhandle, to Williamson to the capital region, and to the Northern Panhandle and all places in between, folks will know about these allegations and we’re going to work hard to prove what we’ve articulated.”

Presiding Judge Derek Swope, a circuit court judge from the 9th District in Mercer County, issued an order Wednesday setting strict rules for media covering the trial, including a prohibition on recording.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)


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