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May 5, 2021 –  It was an American epidemic long before Covid-19. Opioid addiction and overdoses have scythed through the US heartland, often compounding misery in regions already ravaged by economic desperation. Between 1999 and 2019, more than 247,000 people died in the US from overdoses involving prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2019 alone, nearly 50,000 Americans were killed by overdosing on powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl. These questions may start to be sorted out in West Virginia, where a trial has just opened with Big Pharma firms McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health on the stand. It will help test whether an opioid case can be successful at trial against pharmaceutical companies under a claim of “public nuisance” for failing to monitor, divert or report suspicious or excessive orders under the Controlled Substances Act.  The case is being brought by Cabell County, West Virginia, and the city of Huntington. The three firms funneled more than 57 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to a community of just 100,000 people over eight years starting in 2006. Lawyers for the defendants argue that their clients did not break the law and were not responsible for prescribing the drugs to patients.  The trial, one of the first of what could be hundreds of cases to reach the court, could provide important precedents as to the culpability of Big Pharma firms and the price it may have to pay to end the blizzard of lawsuits.

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