FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has announced that he has filed a lawsuit against Walgreens, the sixth company he has taken to court stemming from Kentucky’s opioid crisis.
The suit filed at Boone Circuit Court on Thursday, alleges Walgreens, in its dual role as distributor and pharmacy, “failed to legally monitor its own operations that shipped and dispensed large quantities of opioids through more than 70 locations statewide.”
During a Capitol press conference, Beshear told reporters, “That means Walgreens as a company knew not only how many opioids were flooding into Kentucky, but even how many opioids were going to a single family. That gave Walgreens real-time data and a front row seat as opioids flooded and devastated our communities.”
Beshear said Walgreens shipped so many opioids to Kentucky that any reasonable company would have known it was wrong and needed to stop. “Its pharmacies filled so many opioid prescriptions that the company could see on the community and individual family level the harm that was occurring. But Walgreens did not stop.”
The lawsuit also claims unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices by Walgreens for excessively distributing and dispensing opioids in Kentucky and for failing to legally report to state and federal authorities the suspiciously large orders it received for prescription opioids.
Beshear says Walgreen, whose 2018 second quarter sales topped $33 billion, failed to use its unique position as a pharmacy and distributor to prevent the flood of opioids into Kentucky.
He explained why the suit was filed in Boone County. “We know how hard northern Kentucky has been hit by this epidemic. Their families deserve to have one of these lawsuits in their community, so this company has to come in and answer for its actions to those families.”
Beshear admitted the lawsuits won’t bring any of those loved ones back, “but it does seek justice and it can help that next generation of people at risk from addiction to not fall into that life, and to be together with their families.”
Of the other five lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, one filed last November against Endo Pharmaceuticals, is still before Franklin Circuit Court, according to Beshear. “They recently filed a motion to dismiss, where their arguments were absolutely offensive,” he said. “Claiming they had no responsibility and that we did this to ourselves. We are fighting that motion very hard.”
He says defendants in the other four cases, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and Johnson and Johnson, have tried to remove these cases to federal court where a multi-district litigation panel is being conducted in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We are fighting get those cases brought back to Kentucky,” Beshear said, “If it gets to a judge in Cleveland, we will argue for a remand there.”
Jim Graham, senior manager for media relations for Walgreens at their headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, says they decline to comment, because the matter is the subject of pending litigation.