Attorney General Curtis Hill Tuesday filed a lawsuit against three drug distributors responsible for a commanding share of the prescription opioids sold to Indiana pharmacies during the relevant time period.
The complaint alleges that AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp. violated Indiana law by: 1) designing flawed systems that failed to adequately identify, report and prevent the shipment of suspicious orders for opioids; 2) failing to adhere to the terms of their own anti-diversion programs for opioids; and 3) unfairly and deceptively marketing prescription opioids.
“Distributors play a crucial role in the drug supply chain,” Attorney General Hill said. “As wholesalers, they are the link between drug manufacturers and the pharmacies that sell drugs directly to consumers. When they conduct themselves responsibly, distributors should function as a significant line of defense to protect the public from too many pills flooding into our communities and being diverted away from legitimate medical channels. In Indiana, these distributors failed to meet their legal obligations, and the results have been devastating.”
Indiana has had one of the highest rates of opioid prescribing and diversion in the nation. From 2012 to 2016, there were 58 Indiana counties with opioid prescribing rates greater than 100 prescriptions per 100 residents per year. As of 2012, Indiana had the ninth-highest rate of opioid prescriptions per capita — and the fifth-highest rate of diversion — in the United States. Between 2010 and 2016, more than 3,000 Hoosiers died of opioid overdoses.
The complaint alleges the three companies violated the law by distributing quantities of prescription opioids that they knew, or reasonably should have known, exceeded legitimate medical and scientific needs — while failing to maintain appropriate controls over such distribution. For years, these drugs were being overprescribed, misused, abused and diverted outside legitimate medical channels. The complaint further alleges that these companies engaged in deceptive, unfair and abusive business practices by marketing and promoting the sale of these addictive and dangerous drugs, all the while failing to implement effective controls against diversion.
In describing the alleged wrongdoing, Attorney General Hill explained: “AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal and McKesson are the largest wholesale distributors of opioids nationally and here in Indiana. Our lawsuit asserts that they breached their duty to prevent diversion of controlled substances by failing to maintain effective controls in their distribution systems and that these companies profited handsomely — to the tune of billions of dollars nationally — by their unlawful conduct.”
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Hill seeks civil penalties; injunctive relief; disgorgement of ill-gotten gains; and other appropriate relief.
“The effects of the opioid crisis in Indiana have been profound,” Attorney General Hill said. “The toll includes death, babies born addicted to these drugs, increases in drug-related crime and incarceration, devastating loss of work productivity and increased health care costs for the state and its citizens. The effects are felt not just by the individuals but also by their families and entire communities. These outcomes were predictable consequences of the distributors’ failure to impose and enforce adequate controls, and they have contributed to a full-blown public health crisis.”
The lawsuit filed Tuesday, spanning more than 200 pages, results from a lengthy, months-long investigation that included multiple depositions of individuals in the industry and extensive review of company documents.
The Office of the Attorney General is being assisted in this matter by the law firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Zimmerman Reed LLP.