By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – Drug distributor McKesson Corp has agreed to pay $37 million to resolve a lawsuit by the state of West Virginia seeking to hold it responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic, the state’s attorney general said on Thursday.
The settlement announced by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey resolves one of hundreds of cases McKesson faces by states and local governments alleging it failed to identify suspicious orders by pharmacies of painkillers.
The settlement was the largest that a distributor has struck with a state in the litigation. West Virginia in 2017 settled similar cases against rival distributors Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp for $20 million and $16 million, respectively.
McKesson did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which resolved a lawsuit Morrisey’s office filed in Boone County Circuit Court in 2016.
“McKesson is committed to working with others to end this national crisis … and is pleased that the settlement provides funding toward initiatives intended to address the opioid epidemic,” the company said in a statement.
Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The epidemic has prompted lawsuits by state and local governments accusing drug manufacturers like Purdue Pharma of deceptively marketing opioids and distributors like McKesson of failing to detect the diversion of the drugs for illicit purposes.
McKesson in January 2017 agreed to pay $150 million to resolve a federal investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration into whether it failed to report suspicious orders of addictive painkillers.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Meredith Mazzilli)