KY attorney general sues CVS for alleged role in opioid epidemic

Kentucky

FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has filed a lawsuit against CVS Health for the company’s alleged role in the state’s opioid epidemic. Cameron says the lawsuit alleges seven claims against the company.

Cameron’s office says the lawsuit alleges the company “engaged in unlawful business practices” and claims they “failed to guard against the diversion of opioids.” The attorney general’s office claims the company maintained more than 100 different license numbers throughout the Bluegrass state as a “wholesaler,” “out-of-state pharmacy” and “retail pharmacy.”

Cameron says the company’s pharmacies in the state purchased more than 151 million dosage units of hydrocodone and oxycodone between 2006 and 2014, both from its own distribution centers and third-party distributors. This reportedly accounts for 6.1% of the dosage units in Kentucky during that time period.

“During the height of the opioid epidemic, CVS allowed millions of dosage units of opioids to flood Kentucky’s borders, fueling the crisis and devastating thousands of families and communities across the Commonwealth,” said Cameron.  “As both distributor and pharmacy, CVS was in a unique position to monitor and stop the peddling of these highly-addictive drugs from their stores, yet they ignored their own safeguard systems. By bringing this lawsuit on behalf of the people of Kentucky, we are holding CVS accountable for these decisions and for contributing to a man-made crisis that tragically led to the loss of life of thousands of Kentuckians.”

According to the lawsuit, the company allegedly had a “dual role in the opioid supply chain” because it is both a distributor and pharmacy, as well as having access to the prescription opioid dispensing data in all CVS pharmacies in Kentucky.

The data CVS had access to includes the size, frequency, dose and combinations of prescriptions that are filled at each pharmacy. Cameron says even while allegedly supplying “staggering quantities” of opioids in the state, the company did not report any suspicious orders at Kentucky locations between 2007 and 2014. Then in 2015, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Kentucky as having a “statistically significant drug overdose death rate increase” between 2014 and 2015.

Cameron says in 2015, drug overdoses accounted for more than 59% of accidental deaths in the state, putting overdose deaths higher than the combined number of accidental deaths related to motor vehicle accidents, fire, drowning and gunshot wounds.

The lawsuit also claims CVS “participated in” marketing, promotion and advertising of opioid products prior to and during the height of the opioid epidemic in Kentucky, alleging that through these efforts, the company “improperly normalized” the widespread use of opioids.

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