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Beshear Sues AmerisourceBergen for Allegedly Supplying ‘Dangerous Levels’ of Prescription Painkillers to Kentucky

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FRANKFORT, Ky. – By filing suit today against national opioid distributor AmerisourceBergen, Attorney General Andy Beshear now seeks to hold a group of distributors responsible for supplying 85 percent of opioids in Kentucky.

The lawsuit against AmerisourceBergen alleges unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices for excessively distributing opioids in Kentucky and for failing to legally report suspiciously large volumes of these drugs to state and federal authorities. 

Beshear said actions by the Pennsylvania-based company, who is presumed to supply nearly 32 percent of opioids in the state, played a major role in fueling Kentucky’s opioid epidemic.

Recent lawsuits by Beshear make similar claims against distributors Ohio-based Cardinal Health and San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation. Cardinal supplies 20.7 percent of pharmaceuticals nationally, and McKesson supplies 32.7 percent. 

Together, the three companies control 85 percent of the prescription drug market in the country. That market includes the supply of opioids into Kentucky.

“We must stop these large supplies of opioids fueling addiction in so many of our communities,” Beshear said. “One way to do that is to continue to drag these billion-dollar opioid distributors into Kentucky court to seek damages for their irresponsible actions.”

In the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year, AmerisourceBergen announced its revenue was $40.5 billion, up 6 percent compared to the same quarter in the previous fiscal year, reflecting a 5.8 percent increase in its pharmaceutical distribution services revenue.

In 2017, AmerisourceBergen profited from a 31.6 percent market share, the second highest in the industry.

Beshear said the company’s hold on the market created “dangerous levels” of opioids in Kentucky communities across the state.

From Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2016, pharmacies in Bell County filled prescriptions for a total of 30,091,681 doses of opioid drugs. With a 31.6 percent market share, AmerisourceBergen would have contributed 9,508,971 of those doses or 340 doses for every man, woman and child in the county.

During that same timeframe, Clay County pharmacies filled prescriptions for a total of 25,429,897 doses of opioid drugs, with AmerisourceBergen contributing 8,035,847 of those doses, which is 381 doses for every person in Clay County.

Additionally, Floyd County pharmacies filled prescriptions for a total of 56,375,642 doses of opioids, with AmerisourceBergen contributing 17,814,702 of those doses, which is 461 doses for everyone in Floyd County.

From 2012 through 2016, Bell County had 81 overdose deaths, Clay County had 28 and Floyd had 89.

Beshear filed the AmerisourceBergen lawsuit in Floyd Circuit Court.

According to the lawsuit, AmerisourceBergen paid civil penalties and entered into a compliance memorandum of agreement with the government in 2007 for its role in its internet pharmacies.

Beshear’s lawsuit against AmerisourceBergen is one of many filed across the nation. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently settled with AmerisourceBergen for $16 million. It was alleged that AmerisourceBergen oversupplied West Virginia – from 2007-2012, a total of 132 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone were distributed to the state.

Beshear is working with AG Morrisey and Ohio AG Mike DeWine to find solutions to the drug crisis in their region of the country.  

Beshear filed his first suit in November 2017 against Endo Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions for violating state law and directly contributing to state opioid related deaths and overdoses from its drug Opana.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tied a Southern Indiana 2015 HIV outbreak specifically to the injection of Opana ER. In doing so, the federal health agency identified 220 counties across the country at the greatest risk for similar outbreaks, including Hepatitis. Fifty-four of those counties, roughly 25 percent, are in Kentucky.

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