West Virginia city and county, which were hard-hit by the opioid crisis, seeks $2.5 billion in the trial on Tuesday. Lawyers fighting the cause for West Virginia laid out their case to U.S. District Judge David Faber in Charleston. The lawyers said that evidence showed that major drug distributors were flooding the region with addictive pills creating an addiction crisis. Meanwhile, a defense lawyer blamed doctors for prescribing these pills.
Lawyers said that approximately 81 million pills were distributed to a community comprising of only 100,000 people or less and this might very well cause an opioid epidemic.
Huntington and Cabell’s case was the first to go to trial against the distributors. The trial, which is a non-jury trial, will be decided by Judge David Faber. The judge must determine if the companies are liable for causing the epidemic and how much they must pay to remedy the situation.
The companies accused of creating this opioid epidemic have denied the claims. They claim that they complied with state and federal laws and put the whole blame for a surge in opioid use on doctors’ prescribing practices.
The lawyer fighting the trial said that the severity of the crisis in Huntington is plain to see. There had been 6,494 overdoses from 2015 to 2020 and 1,151 overdose deaths from 2001 to 2018. He also said that around 10% of Cabell County’s 91,000 residents were addicted to opioids.
Nationwide, from the years 1999 to 2019, around 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also said that provisional data showed that 69,710 opioid overdose deaths occurred in 2020, which is a big increase of almost 36% from the previous year.
Even though more than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed continuously by local governments from around the country accusing these drugmakers of downplaying the risks of using opioid pain medications, trials are yet to happen. Lawsuits have been filed against distributors and pharmacies for ignoring red flags that these opioids were getting sold illegally everywhere. There are many more trials that are underway against these drugmakers in California and New York.